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.
Chris Grady had always wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. “I tried football my freshman year, but as you can tell by just looking at me” — he holds up a reed-thin bicep — “it didn’t work out.” By senior year, Grady had enlisted in the military, like his grandfather. The “camaraderie that goes with serving, that’s something I craved,” Grady says. “It just felt so right — up until it didn’t.”
The shift came in the days immediately after he hid in a closet, listening to the gunshots go off. “I can’t justify going overseas to protect the ones I care about when they’re getting murdered in their classrooms and on the streets,” he says. In June, instead of heading to basic training, Grady embarked on the March for Our Lives bus tour with other young survivors of gun violence. In January, he started college and plans to major in political science. “Talking to these politicians, nobody was taking us seriously,” he says. “It really helped make things clear what I wanted to do with my life.”