In this Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, photo, Brianna Fisher, 16, left, Leni Steinhardt, 16, center, and Brianna Jesionowski sit during an interview with The Associated Press about a new book called “Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories,” in Parkland, Fla. Students and teachers from the Florida school where 17 died in February‚Äôs high school massacre wrote the raw, poignant book about living through the tragedy. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

‘I still weep’: Parkland survivors write book on shooting

Book by 43 students and teachers who lived through high school massacre gives a raw recap

“Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories” needed to be written, its authors believe, but wish desperately it hadn’t.

The book by 43 students and teachers who lived through February’s high school massacre gives a poignant, raw, and sometimes graphic look into the six-minute shooting spree where 17 died and its aftermath as a well-off Fort Lauderdale suburb suddenly found itself mourning in a global spotlight that has dimmed but will never reach black.

“I lost my sense of innocence. I lost my sense of security. I lost my ability to see the world as I had only hours earlier. I would give anything to go back,” wrote journalism teacher Sarah Lerner, who edited the 192-page paperback of essays, poems, photos and art published Tuesday by Crown Books for Young Readers.

Lerner and three student contributors gathered recently in a park a mile from the school to talk about the tragedy and how the book helped them cope as a veneer of normalcy returns weeks before the anniversary. Nearby, a few dozen special education students practiced yoga, helped by Stoneman Douglas volunteers. A skater zipped past. Elementary kids noisily played soccer.

READ MORE: 7,000 pairs of shoes laid out in Washington, D.C., to honour kids killed by gun violence

The poet

“How many did he kill? After hours of no sleep, my eyes slip shut, as I still weep, there is a feeling in my gut, I wake up screaming, the memories haunt my head” – Brianna Jesionowski in her poem, “First Night.”

Jesionowski’s English class was ending when shots rang out just outside on the first floor of the three-story freshman building. The gunman fired down the hallway with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and through windows into classrooms, but not hers. He then climbed the stairs, killing as he went.

But Jesionowski and her classmates didn’t know it was real. There had been rumours that the school would hold an active-shooter drill with blank guns and drama students portraying victims.

“We thought it was weird – we had never been through anything like this,” she said. Even after police evacuated her class and she exited through a blood-filled hallway, she said her mind wouldn’t accept the reality until she met her older sister, Kaitlyn, whose hands were bloody from comforting a girl as she died.

She began writing poems before she was asked to contribute to the book – it’s how she copes. Several are featured.

“I had so many different feelings. I was confused. My sister gave me good advice to write it down and sort through it,” she said.

The letter writer

“My name is Leni Steinhardt and I am a survivor of a school shooting. That is a sentence no sixteen-year-old should have to write” – Leni Steinhardt in her essay, “Dear Senator Marco Rubio.”

The letter, which Steinhardt also sent Congress members, details the terror she felt as she called her parents to say she loved them in case she never got another chance. How her brother lost a friend. It asks a pointed question: “What are you and the rest of the government doing to prevent this from happening again?”

“It was important that he heard it from me because I was angered after the shooting,” Steinhardt said. “I really didn’t have anyone to go to after this. My parents never lived through a shooting. My grandparents didn’t know. There really wasn’t anyone in my life who could answer these questions.”

She said Rubio responded, agreeing changes are needed but gave no specifics.

The photographer

The photo shows three girls hugging tight in a Stoneman Douglas walkway, their eyes closed. Are they frightened? Mourning? No. Brianna Fisher took the photo long before the shooting on a first day of school of friends happy to see each other. She posted it on Instagram shortly after the shooting to show what school should be, not what it had become.

For her, the book represents what her schoolmates experienced – and she and the other contributors have a major responsibility.

“Not every student is going to be speaking to the press or writing something – it needs to be an accurate presentation,” Fisher said.

The teacher

For Lerner, like everyone, it had been a normal day. In her classroom across from the freshman building, she’d quizzed students on George Orwell’s book “1984,” dropping chocolate kisses on their desks so they wouldn’t think her a “total monster” for interrupting their Valentine’s Day. She posted a selfie of the red leggings she wore for the occasion. During the shooting, she and some students huddled until SWAT officers found them and led them away.

She said the book has helped her and the students heal.

“We went through this together and we are going to get through this together,” she said.

Terry Spencer, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Alberta male team takes silver in Winter Games relay speed skating

Alberta was close behind Quebec in the team relay speed skating finals

County of Paintearth bringing in new payment method for ratepayers

County will soon able to accept major credit-cards

Alberta was crowned champions in Wheelchair Basketball at Canada Winter Games

Ontario won silver while Quebec took home the bronze medal

Castor’s Covenant Health an employer of choice in Alberta

Covenant Health staff help keep Alberta’s communities strong by creating fulfilling workplaces

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

WATCH: Pet therapy brings calmness to Winter Games athletes

Canada Winter Games in Red Deer continue on until March 2nd

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Child advocacy centre raising funds through Dream Home Lottery

The child advocacy centre in Red Deer uses its resources to help kids all over Central Alberta

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Mueller report looming, new attorney general in hot seat

Robert Mueller is required to produce a confidential report to pursue or decline prosecutions

B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Leona Huggins was the only Canadian in the gathering ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican

Sylvan Lake’s Megan Cressey misses Freestyle Skiing Big Air podium

Alberta’s Jake Sandstorm captured silver in the men Freestyle Skiing Big Air contest

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Most Read