Hi. My name is Anisha Saripalli and I am a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am a survivor of the Feb. 14 shooting who wants — needs — to create change.
That Wednesday was a regular school day for me. As many of you might've learned from the news, we had a fire drill earlier in the day. I remember the drill wasn't as organized as previous ones, because our school had just started a new protocol and we were all still getting used to it. By word of mouth, students also heard we would be having a simulated code red (armed assaulter) drill next week, where it would feel very real (police would be shooting blanks, ambulance sounds would be everywhere, etc.). I can't help but think this is what led to so much confusion during the attack in the afternoon; we just thought it was a drill.
Before the fire alarm went off for the second time, I was working on an assignment in my history class, on the opposite side of the school from where the shooting occurred. Luckily, it wasn't an exam, since we might have hesitated to evacuate. My classmates and I were all confused when the alarm rang through the halls. It was so close to the end of the day, this doesn't seem planned. Many of us threw our books and pens into our bags, even when our teacher said the drill should finish before the school day did. But judging by how recently the previous fire drill was, we took our bags with us anyways. When we were about to leave the classroom, the fire alarm stopped.
One of my classmates looked out the door and saw that other students were still leaving the building. We decided to follow them. When I was about to step out of the classroom, our assistant principal came on the intercom. "Evacuate the building immediately," he said. My classmates and I obeyed; we didn't hesitate to get out.
I remember that our evacuation route was moving slowly; two buildings' worth of students were using the same staircase. As we waited for our turn to get to our assigned safe zone, my friend and I joked that culinary must've burned their Valentine's Day brownies. They're usually the reason alarms go off when it isn't planned.
"My friend and I joked that culinary must've burned their Valentine's Day brownies. They're usually the reason alarms go off when it isn't planned."
When we finally made it down the stairs, we saw a group of kids running down the hallway yelling that they heard gunshots. I didn't believe them, thinking that some kid must've been making those noises, pulling some kind of prank. At my evacuation zone, my teacher noticed the other classes quickly moving off campus towards Westglades, the middle school right next door. We followed them, thinking it was a code black (toxic chemical on school grounds), since we'd have to go to a further location in that scenario. When we reached the code black destination, the administrators were really freaked out. They told us to move even further from the school.
That's when I saw a member of a SWAT team waiting for us to go through the fence behind the middle school. That's when I heard the helicopters and saw police cars rushing down the expressway. That's when I realized that there was an active shooter on campus.
My friends started getting texts from our classmates on the other side of the school. They were on lockdown; the shooter fired into my freshman geography teacher's classroom; they're safe for now. I called my mom. I just couldn't believe that this was actually happening. I texted all of my friends on the other side of the school, and thankfully, they all responded — except for one.
"I was in shock. I was hoping that my injured friend was going to be OK, that she wasn't one of the victims."
When I finally evacuated (my class was in the first wave of evacuees), my friend's mom drove me home. On the way, we picked up her brother from nearby the freshman building, he had run to a nearby development. He confirmed what we were hoping wasn't true. My friend was frantic, since people were saying that our friend C* was shot.
When I came home, the news was everywhere. My school was on national TV; we had lost more people than Columbine. I was in shock. I was hoping that my injured friend was going to be OK, that she wasn't one of the victims.
I woke up the next morning to the news that she passed away, a week before her 17th birthday. I cried; I couldn't believe that her life was cut short. I always expected her to do great things in her life; we all did. Not only was she incredibly intelligent and musically creative, she always made our days so much brighter. But she was killed. Killed, by a 19-year-old with an assault rifle, the same type of gun that was used in so many other mass shootings.
"I am too young to vote, but I'm not too young to start a petition. I'm not too young to use my voice, to shout and scream until something changes."
But now, my grief has turned to rage. My school won't be another statistic in some report on gun violence. I am using my first amendment right to show Congress that I will not stand for this country's lack of gun control. I am too young to vote, but I'm not too young to start a petition. I'm not too young to use my voice, to shout and scream until something changes.
I remember the conversations C* and I would have about the serious lack of gun control after the Las Vegas shooting, hoping something would be done. SHE WAS KILLED BECAUSE NOTHING WAS DONE. After every shooting, politicians always send their their thoughts and prayers, but they never do ANYTHING to prevent it from happening again. Our blood is on every one of their hands. They would rather get money from the NRA than make laws people actually need. It's long past #EnoughIsEnough. It was enough when Sandy Hook students were massacred, when Columbine students were massacred — it's enough every day that passes. But legislators didn't pass anything when 5- and 6-year-olds were murdered. There have been over TWO HUNDRED school shootings since, because of them.
By allowing this status quo, politicians are complicit in all of the murders due to gun violence. It's time to speak up and demand change. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has to be the last time. We can't stand it anymore and neither should you.
"Political parties don't matter anymore; all legislators who oppose gun control have got to go."
You can sign my Change.org petition, protest, contact your legislators, keep tabs on them, and most importantly, vote them out of office if they do not deliver on their promises. Election Day is Nov. 6: Everyone who can vote, should vote out every congressman, senator, and governor who would rather take NRA bribes than stand with America's children. Political parties don't matter anymore; all legislators who oppose gun control have got to go.
My friend, my classmates, and my teachers didn't have to die. I know the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will not stop until there are no more school shootings — because I won't stop either.
This perspective is reflective of the author's experience, and is part of a larger, feminist discourse.
*Name has been changed to protect their identity.