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

Search for missing Saanich Peninsula pair ends in tragedy

Vehicle found with two deceased occupants inside

Haber nets strong comeback in Pacific FC home game win

Vancouver Island team takes 2-0 win over Valour FC

Improvements to Sinclair Road coming

Development comes after Cadboro Bay Residents Association (CBRA) raised concerns

Saanich councillor open to more commercial operations in local parks

Coun. Ned Taylor had raised the issue during his election campaign

Langford’s Sarah Beckett Memorial playground opens

Life of West Shore RCMP Constable honoured with new playground

VIDEO: Here’s the news you missed this weekend

Some of the top weekend headlines from your community and beyond

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

Island murder victim’s mom expresses outrage over mental fitness decision of the accused

Smith vows to keep fighting until justice served for Descoteau

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vancouver Island man dead after reported hit-and-run incident

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Most Read