Parkland survivor talks what it’s like being a part of the ‘school shooting generation’

school shootings

There have been 12 mass shootings, in which four or more people died, at schools since the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999.

School shooting are more frequent than ever, and some students live in fear that theirs will be next. Here’s why today’s students have been dubbed the ‘school shooting generation.’

David Hogg, Parkland shooting survivor and gun control activist, feels there is a connection among mass shooting survivors.

“Whenever I meet other survivors of a different mass shooting, one of the first things they’ll say is, ‘You’re now a part of this club that nobody else wants to be a part of,’” Hogg told The Panther. “I’ve heard that from hundreds of people across the country that have lived through mass shootings, and the club is only getting bigger.”

Upon returning to school at Stoneman Douglas High School two weeks after the shooting, Hogg said his campus felt “weird and numb.” The students should have never had to miss those two weeks, because the shooting should have never happened and gun violence should never happen.

“We were treated like toddlers,” Hogg said. “People were given Play-Doh and crayons to play with because we were fundamentally broken down emotionally from what happened, and understandably so.”

On Feb. 14, a gunman opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Fourteen students and three staff members were killed and 17 people were wounded but survived the shooting. Because of the frequency of mass school shootings, a 2018 Atlantic article referred to Americans born in the late 90s and early 2000s as the “school shooting generation.” Most college-age Americans don’t remember a time when gun violence wasn’t a threat, according to the article

Lauren Netzel, a freshman communications studies major, said she thinks about the possibility of a shooter entering her math class in Hashinger Science Center. She said she believes that school shootings have caused this generation to have a “screwed-up mentality.”

“When I sit in class, I can’t help but think about (a school shooting),” Netzel said. “I hope the doors are locked. It makes me uneasy knowing that anyone can come in. There have been times I hear screaming outside, and I panic a little bit.”

Tatum Doke, a freshman health sciences major, said that she thinks society has become desensitized to mass school shootings. It’s frustrating that this has become normal, and that shouldn’t be okay, she said.

“When I see that there is another (school shooting), I’m like, ‘There’s another one, it’s probably going to happen near me or to me,’” Doke said.

Hogg said his life was “insane” after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. Hogg, along with fellow survivors of the Parkland shooting, began vocalizing his opinions on gun violence in the days and weeks following the shooting. There were 20 hour days with very little sleep in between and a lot of interviews, he said.

“The solution to stopping gun violence is pretty simple,” Hogg said. “It’s about creating common sense solutions and establishing morally just leaders that care about whether or not kids make it home from school, or just don’t die in their community, period, from gun violence.”

Hogg, who is taking a gap year before he begins college, continues to travel — flying to different states where he does events on college campuses, encouraging students to become civically active in their communities.

“I look forward to college to be able to inspire other young people on my campus, to go out and create change in the community,” Hogg said. “The way that people can become empowered like we did in Parkland is by realizing that they’ve always had this power and believing in themselves. We need to stop waiting for other individuals to be the people we wish to see create change.”

But Americans aren’t seeing any change, Netzel said.

“After 9/11, one person does something and all security changes, and we haven’t had anything like that happen again,” Netzel said. “And yet, when a school shooting happens, we don’t change anything.”

Change may be on the horizon, however. College students must vote every single chance they get because politicians won’t pay attention until they do, Hogg said.

“The reason why older people are so taken care of by the government is because they are one of the largest voting bloc that consistently votes in America,” Hogg said. “Young people can be that too, but we have to start voting.”

Hogg also encourages young people, especially survivors of school shootings, to take care of themselves first. Activism takes a toll on your emotions, he said, and it can be very harmful for individuals who don’t know how to take care of themselves.

“You’re not expected to save the world because you lived through something that never should have happened,” Hogg said. “But if you feel the need to go out and create change, realize that you cannot create that change unless you take care of yourself first. Go and see a therapist, eat food, surround yourself with friends and a supportive community of the individuals you’re comfortable with.”