Shock was turning to anger and grief for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their families on Thursday morning as they sought grief counselors’ help in processing the shooting that left 17 dead at the Parkland school the day before.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at the school, was taken into custody Wednesday. Thursday morning, he was charged with 17 counts of murder.
Broward County Public Schools transformed otherwise routine meeting spaces in Parkland and Coral Springs — a middle school, a rec center, a theater, a gym and a library — into counseling centers for staff, students and their families. Students who weren’t injured said they were reeling from the psychological trauma of witnessing the event.
Trevor Rock, 16, a freshman at the school, came with his mother, Judith, for counseling at Coral Springs Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday morning.
Trevor said he hid in a classroom on the third floor for about 45 minutes on Wednesday before police came to tell him and his classmates it was safe to leave.
He heard gunfire from inside the classroom, but he said he wasn’t scared at first. Then, he began to leave the building and saw victims lying on the hallway floor.
Judith said she’s worried about the long-term effects on her son’s mental health.
“Unfortunately, he saw two little girls that got shot. So that’s going to be stuck with him for life,” she said.
Trevor said he wasn’t sure what to expect from counseling, but was hoping for “anything that will make [him] feel better.”
Judith said she hopes mental health services continue to be available for students when school starts back up. The school is closed at least for the rest of the week.
“They’re going to need more counseling then, because when they get back to school, [they’re] going to realize that, ‘Oh my god, this is where I saw dead kids,’ ” she said. “And it’s going to be a nightmare.”
Sophomore Narly Dorvil also came to the performing arts center with her mom. She said she knew one of the students who died and wanted to talk to a counselor about it.
Dorvil was in study hall when the shooting started. She and her classmates had been trained on what to do.
“We all dove where we were supposed to dive, you know, and we hid where we were supposed to hide,” she said. “Everybody wasn’t as quiet as I wanted them to be, but they were quiet enough, I guess.”
She hid behind her teacher’s desk for what felt like hours, and from her hiding place, she could see the door to the classroom, which made her feel even more scared.
No one in her classroom got hurt. When her class was leaving the school, responders told the students to keep their heads down, she said. She did for a while but looked up when she thought it would be safe, and she saw a body.
Now, “I’m just trying to get through the day,” she said.
Freshman Seth Gegerson was at one of the centers where grief counseling was being offered.
He said one of the shooting victims was a close friend, “sort of like a brother.”
“I just want him to be remembered by us, have his name live on, with us as friends, and with his family, together. And do a memorial for him, just us, lighting candles or something,” Gegerson said. “I’m going to write his name on a bunch of my stuff. I just want to remember what he did for me. He brought me happiness and joy.”
Aiden Williams, another freshman, recounted Wednesday’s events.
“A SWAT broke down our window and told us ‘hands up’ as they came into our classroom and told us to run out towards the street and across the street so we would not be in harm’s way,” he said.
He said teachers had tried to prepare students for an event like this.
“They’ve gone over this a lot, but we’ve never had a drill like this, so we all thought it was a drill,” he said, “and then we realized that it wasn’t and everybody was scared.
Stephen Feuerman has a son who is a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a daughter who is a sophomore.
He moved to South Florida from New York City after Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was on the 78th floor of the Empire State building on 9/11. So I cleared my floor on 9/11 because I knew we were next. I mean, I thought we were next. It was logical in my mind we were next,” he said. “So, this is almost like reliving that, because I lost five or six guys from college and 63 guys off my train.”
“Within two weeks of 9/11, we put an ad in the New York Times and sold our house,” he said.
“This was supposed to be a safe place. Her family was here and it just, made sense. We had actually never even heard of Parkland, but when you looked at the schools you could go to, Parkland was the place.”
He said one of those killed was one of his son's best friends, and another close friend was in surgery.
“It was important to them to come here,” he said of his kids. “I didn’t think it would be, but they wanted to.”