It has now been four years since one of the worst events in South Florida history. It seems like a substantial amount of time, but not enough for survivors to recover from the trauma of a gunman killing 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
"Healing is not a done process in a minute or a month or a year, it takes time, and time that most people don’t realize and time that most people don’t acknowledge,” said Samantha Grady, who was a student at Stoneman Douglas at the time.
Grady, Matthew Satar and Rebecca Bogart were together in room 1214 when terror crashed into their Holocaust studies class. Their friends, Nick Dworet and Helena Ramsey, were shot and killed in the barrage of bullets just inches away from them.
"At first it didn’t effect me as heavily as it did a couple of years later, it seemed like it took time to settle in my mind,” Satar said.
“Every day, it’s a rollercoaster, some days I’m perfectly fine, it’s not a thought in my head, and some days it triggers me,” Bogart said.
The three former classmates met up with each other recently at a park in Coral Springs to discuss the anniversary. The reality that life ended that day in 2018 for two of their classmates never leaves them, they think about it all the time.
"It took me a while to realize, like, I’m alive for a reason, I can use this, I can do anything that I want if I put my mind to this and I’m living for them now, basically,” said Bogart.
“I feel that same way, I use the 17 to like, channel my energy into something productive,” Satar said.
Satar is now a senior at Florida Atlantic University. Grady is pre-med at Nova Southeastern University.
“I know I have a purpose to fulfill,” Grady said. “And whatever that is, I’m going to try my hardest to do it and hopefully I can honor both Nick and Helena in the way I do things.”
Grady was struck by two bullets that day. She still has fragments lodged in her body.
"Yes, it’s a permanent reminder and it’s not gonna go away,” Grady said.
The anniversary is also a reminder, a reminder of the raw, emotional trauma they all experienced.
"Because, like after you go through something like that, you lose your sense of normalcy, you’re just in a haze,” Satar said.
“I heard the gunshots and everything and then it didn’t feel real until I looked and I saw, I made eye contact with someone who got shot,” Bogart said. “Those images will never leave."
Only those who were in their classroom know what they went through, so they rely on each other for support through a group chat, established the day after the mass shooting.
"Like when I was having some big problems that I was facing, whenever I needed something to get off my chest I messaged the group chat and everybody was happy to support me and be there for me,” Satar said.
They struggle at times with survivor’s guilt, but this group also feels like the 17 would want them to celebrate life as they commemorate that awful day.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to, be able to look back on like the individuals and really just celebrate what they could’ve been and how they impacted the world while they were still here,” Grady said.
So they move on, appreciating every day as a gift.
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