On Valentine’s Day 2018, a 19-year-old ex-student took an Uber to his old high school; he walked across the campus and into a three-story building, where he killed 17 people and injured 17 more. It was the sixth of 24 shootings in U.S. schools last year, but the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the catalyst for a nationwide movement. The school’s students rallied more than half a million people to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives and galvanized support for some 67 new gun laws.
They became the public face of the tragedy, but back home many families of the victims have spent the year contending, privately, with the consequences of that day. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Parkland, Rolling Stone sat down with some of the survivors, including the Dworet family; students Maddy and John Wilford; graduate Chris Grady; Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the shooting; and teacher Ivy Schamis.
Maddy and John Wilford
Maddy Wilford has had to piece together what happened between the moment she sat down in her fourth-period AP psychology class and the moment she woke up alone in a hospital room. “I was blacked out for most of it,” she says. She had been shot three times in the arm and torso and was still in the hospital when her classmates were in Tallahassee advocating for gun control less than a week after the shooting. “I’m not really into the gun-activist thing,” she says. “I’m more focusing on the mental side of it, because the people that shoot up schools are obviously going through something.”
Returning to Stoneman Douglas this year has been hard for Maddy, 18, and her younger brother, John, 15, who was approached by the gunman at a nearby mall after the shooting. John was unharmed, but he hasn’t spoken about that day publicly. Maddy’s grades have dropped, and she has put off applying to colleges. “If I can’t even make it through high school courses,” she says, “then I need to take some time off so I can mentally heal.” But she still plans to study medicine, and interned last summer at the hospital where she recovered: “The excitement and joy it gave me watching [the doctors] help someone — I can’t even put it into words.”