Full Interview with Aly Sheehy


Drew Schott, Features Editor

Could you explain your experience at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on that day? Please do not feel pressured to explain your experience if you do not want to.

“I was in the building right next door to where it was happening. I would’ve been in my usual class on the other side of campus, but my teacher had to leave early and drop their kid off at the doctor. So we went to the auditorium that day to cover everybody and the teachers were watching over us as we worked on our projects. Then the fire alarm went off and we thought it was very weird since it was 15, 20 minutes till the end of class. We all walked outside and saw running and screaming. And we thought “Oh, maybe this is a real fire. Maybe we should walk a little faster.” The office, where administrators were, they were outside and yelling at us to turn back inside the building and we just followed their instructions and went back into the auditorium and sat down in between the rows of seats and put our backpacks on the chairs so you couldn’t see anybody. For those first ten minutes, I think everybody thought it was a drill until people started getting messages from our friends inside that building saying “this is real” and we were sent messages that showed TV screens that said there was an active shooter on campus and are you ok. It’s hard being in that situation as I had friends who I’d gone to school with my entire life break down and start crying and seeing people text their mothers I love you or their parents texting them “I love you if I don’t make it, if you don’t make it, just know that I love you.” People don’t understand the amount of chaos and confusion that happened at the school. A few of my friends were with me in the auditorium and I actually didn’t find out until two days after because there were 100 plus kids in there with around 70 adults, so it was crazy, hearing people say, “I was in the auditorium and reacting “Oh I was too.”” Just the perfect explanation of how much chaos there was that day.

What happened after you knew that the shooting was occurring? How did you leave the school property?

The entire time I was trying to remain calm as I am the type of person who cares about others before myself. And so, we were all in the auditorium and about an hour and a half later, we didn’t know if anyone got in (referring to intruder). Then, about a half hour later, we were all put in a line and they cleared the door to the side and they just told us “RUN!” We had to go out of the building hands up the entire time and we weren’t supposed to look around because the way they took us out of the school was right past the Freshmen building where it happened. There was a wall of officers there so you couldn’t see anything and we were told to keep on running and there were officers on the street. We had to take off our backpacks and our jackets, everything, and throw them into a pile so they could look at them. We then sat on a grass hill and were trying to contact our parents and get a hold of as many friends as we could to see if we were all okay. Worried about not getting those text messages back as we didn’t know if they were okay. Luckily, my closest circle of friends was okay and a few of them had their phones die so we couldn’t contact them but we were able to contact them through a place that was near them and they told us that we were ok. Then it was getting back to our family members that was tough as there were so many people out on the street and I just kind of remember being fine until I saw my dad across the street and started crying. It was a nonstop thought of “What happened to them? Why aren’t they answering back? They could be dead by now.” and that was one of the scariest parts, me not knowing.

How long after the shooting did you return to Parkland?

We went back two weeks after it happened. I don’t even know how long that is, but it was two weeks after it happened.

What do think has been the government’s response to the shooting?

 Right now I just think that it’s a lot of talk and they’ve given us a little piece of what we’re actually asking for in that hope that we’ll go away with much attention to bear to let their money driven, misguided actions happen and I really think that they think that we’re going to go away if they enact some little policy. It’s actually insulting as this is something that happened to us personally and to others. Some people are confused as to why we’re fighting so hard; it’s because we don’t want anybody to feel the way that we’re feeling right now. And it’s very hard for some people when they have such a hold on their amendments and their rights and its a constant battle to talking about gun control and banning guns, which is ridiculous and they just shut down the argument, no the conversation, we didn’t even have the argument, we just tried to have a conversation and they shut it down before it’s even possible. And that’s so frustrating but I don’t think they understand the power behind the movement that we’ve started. I don’t think that they’re aware of how driven we are and how determined we are for change.

Did you attend the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.? What was your experience?

Yes, I was in D.C. for it. It was just absolutely incredible. I didn’t even know the amount of people that were there until at the end when they put the camera view on the big screen and showed how many people were actually on the street and it was just one of those moments like “Wow”. It was really interesting and empowering to see the amount of people behind us in our push for change because people constantly told us that a march isn’t going to change anything, but g****mn that isn’t true. We know a march is going to make immediate change. A march is a representation for lawmakers and policymakers and people in power to show how many people are behind us in what we’re doing, and that is creating change. It’s such a powerful statement because it shows that people are actually wanting to vote for this type of thing.

There were a lot of people there that told people to vote overall, such as a environment of people. We were at the section up at the front, where they were people who were affected by gun violence and kind of seeing everybody and asking “Where are you from? What happened to you?” and knowing people that knew what you were going through was quite comforting. It helped with the anxiousness that all of us felt in such a big crowd.

What is your opinion regarding President Trump’s response to the Parkland shooting?

His responses I found embarrassing, but his actions I found disgusting because he hasn’t done anything. He actually has gone quiet on the topic, which is quite unusual for him because he’s the type of person that tweets everything and anything that happens to him. His talk was promising; he mentioned some things, it was surprising to hear him say some of the things that he told us. He definitely has the capacity and the power, he holds the power, to change the future, but The constant fallback argument to “President Obama didn’t change anything, so why are you fighting me on this?” And that’s just frustrating and a terrible argument because he’s in office now and is constantly talking about things that he did better than Obama. So why can’t you do this now? Why won’t you do these things now? Why is there a lot of talk and no action? You could have the ability to be the President that changed guns laws in our country, you have the ability to say that you were the one who listened to the kids making history right now. But I definitely believe his talk was surprising, but his actions were unacceptable, are acceptable.

What did you think of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

Her visit was a disgrace if that’s the way to describe it. The one part that I saw that she posted everywhere on her social media and she was clear that no press was going to be there and allowed in. She made in a thing in that she didn’t want to disturb any students; nobody announced her arrival, nobody said that she was here. And we all thought that her visit was to talk to students about their experiences and we thought we that we could accept those. But, she actually wanted to impress media centers with accounts that we had. She avoided our questions about her agenda and what she plans to input. She mentioned her gun reform and mental health checks, but it was just two students she actually spoke to, not the whole community, as those students went up to speak with her after, where even then she dodged the questions. It was really disheartening to see that happen as she was supposed to be there to listen to us and then well people were like “well she doesn’t even do her real job right” so, we questioned about why she brushed the questions off and argued that it wasn’t the time to talk about it. It was also interesting because that same day, Dwayne Wade, a basketball player (Miami Heat), came to our school unannounced and talked to as many people as he could, sat down with the student body and actually talked about what our movement is about, what we want to see in the future and the March for Our Lives and the Never Again Movement. That was just so interesting to see because he was acting more like the Secretary of Education than the actual Secretary of Education did.

Are you going to plan anything for the march commemorating the Columbine shooting?

I don’t know if there’s anything final, like organized here, but I definitely think we’ll plan something, especially because of the significance of it as Columbine was the first place where it happened and the Douglas is the last place that it does. So there is a definite significance for marching.

What did you think of Senator Rubio’s appearance at the Florida Town Hall?
A lot of people said it was surprising, but I don’t see it that way. It’s kind of how our government works; he needs to approve his constituents and he did the very least that he could’ve done showing up. It’s very interesting to hear the conversation that he had and the points that he made because he changed his viewpoint on some things, which is a big accomplishment because it’s something we’ve been trying to do. The town hall was supposed to be a conversation about gun control. There were a couple times where the audience was interacting and booing and a lot of people were confused about that. It was mostly the adults and the parents and if you actually look at the video, you see people put their heads down. We wanted to hear what he had to say; that was the point of it; that’s why we called for it. It was to hear what he had to say, his ideas and how he could change his mind and why we’re hurting so bad and the reasons he can stop it.

What did you think of Dana Loesch’s comments at the Florida Town Hall?

She deflected everything in question, she circled around it, and the answers and she didn’t give any clear answers. Overall, she was rude and disrespectful to mental health and the ways of trying to solve it as she credited it as “just a mental health issue” but I don’t see how they (NRA) can blame it (the shooting) on the mental health system as it was very rude because even after, she made terrible comments about the actual town hall and lied about it. It was just really hard to see people agree with what she had to say, even when they were lies. And even when they’re very good at their job, so talking about it but not talking about it, and it’s really annoying when you know the facts and she said a half truth, or half of a statistic that she said, or just telling us straight-up falsehoods. It doesn’t make any sense.

Do you believe that gun control is feasibly possible in the United States?

Something that I find frustrating (frustrated about many things in regard to this conversation such as the country’s response). I definitely feel that gun control is possible as it is gun control; its not banning any guns. It’s not taking away anything. It’s just to make sure that people with malicious intent who are purchasing a weapon/firearm are checked so they can’t create chaos and destruction. I think its two sides: the hypocrisy on both sides is so annoying. It’s frustrating because on the Left they say “you should be listening to these kids; they’re the future.” And then someone says, “Oh no no no. They’re just kids; they don’t know what they’re talking about.” And then there’s the right that you’re 18 and can have a weapon and most of us are 18 and some say “Oh they can have a weapon.” There are political opinions about this. The divide between the red, white, and blue will be the obstruction of gun control and, what is needed to overcome this. There are kids telling the government what they experienced and that they need to stop screaming at each other and have a conversation. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to solve the problem is to talk to each other about it and our ideas. We’re well aware of how the government works and we’re well aware that everyone is not going to agree with us on what we have to say. That’s fine. Everyone’s obligated to their own political opinion. It’s just that we haven’t even had the conversation yet. We haven’t even talked about or faced what gun laws would be beneficial so I think that this movement is a definite turnaround for starting the conversation.

What did think about the hesitation of the school resource officer to not enter the building where the shooting was occurring?

There are two sides: One thing is that that was his job. His job was to protect us and the students of that school and he didn’t do that or try to. In the video of his testimony, he is just standing outside, and he said that he didn’t know it was coming from the 1200 Building but, after hearing the radio call three times it was and he didn’t do anything. It was happening there and it was my friends in there, my friends. Some of them could still be alive if he went in. But there are a lot of what if’s now. And it kind of destroys the value of the argument as the guy didn’t do anything.

But the other side of the argument was that it was an AR-15 that shoots off 100 rounds per minute and he (Cruz) did it in six minutes. He (the school officer) was probably thinking about his family, my family, and so there’s a very common thing to say that I and we were failed because it was his job, but I understand why he didn’t go in.

I don’t know really, it’s just me speaking about what I’m passionate about. And also that people listen. And people ask how we attend school and balance this type of thing and for something that’s important, I’m always going to make time for it. And this is something that has affected so many people and I’m fed up with it, so I’m always going to make time for it because it’s important to get what is happening out there for a positive cause.

Are there any more movements/marches occurring in the near future? If so, what about?

I know that there’s a few groups still doing school safety parts. There are parents creating school safety nonprofits that help with school safety and school safety measures. I’m not sure if there’s any specific matches for gun control again, but I’m assuming around elections, where we can get the same turnout that we got for the recent marches to uphold and remind everybody what happens. I think our main focus now is registering people to vote as that part shows how governments work and we are told that, if you don’t participate, don’t complain. And that’s true on so many levels because if you’re not voting to change your future, or not actively trying to change what is going on, how can you complain that it is wrong? And I think our main focus is now to get younger people to vote as our numbers and polls can go up. It was very sad to see how very little people showed up last time.

What is it like for you and your classmates to be the focus of the American media? How has that affected your school community and you and your classmates’ activism?

 Sometimes I’ll see around Stoneman Douglas (Parkland) and for the split second, I’m like, “Hey, I live there.” Why its on the TV and it’s something that doesn’t really click. The events that happened feels like they happened years ago but they also feel like they happened yesterday and it’s such a hard feeling to describe. The amount of work that we’ve done has been years, the amount of stuff we’ve been working on has been years, I don’t remember anything that I worked on the week of. I don’t remember anything that was going on. It’s hard to hear because I usually remember and lot of things and I like remembering things that I did, but I can’t remember it. Just seeing it on the news, all my friends are my friends are on the TV and I’m like “Go, we’re making a change!”, but While at the March, we realized that we did this. Students did this. It’s empowering. It’s empowering to see everyone use their voices and make change. I see people calling for it. It has definitely given me a lot more school pride; I am very proud to be an Eagle right now.

What are you and your classmates focusing on for the remainder of the year?

 Right now, the hardest part is getting ready for AP tests at the end of the year since we missed so much learning time. It’s catch-up right now. We actually need to be ready for the exam later. Also, just the little things getting back into it. Like prom, what’s going on, who’s going with us. We previously have been united, we’re the Parkland bubble because everybody knows everybody. I know I’ve said “I love you” hundreds of times and I can’t even count; this is to people I don’t even know and I’m so happy that you’re okay and you didn’t get hurt. It’s an important thing that when we see someone is down and you understand why they’re down, we all know why, whether it’s sad, angry, etc. and we all know each other’s boundaries and we know that we can talk about with each other because we all understand. And that’s the part that’s easier in that they understand that we’re not all grieving the same way, so it’s something you have to approach day by day.

Please feel free to answer this question at your own discretion. What do you think should be the penalty imposed on Nikolas Cruz for his perpetration of the shooting?

The death penalty, I want to see it, but at the same time, I don’t because I don’t think he should be able to go that easily after he caused so much pain to our community. It’s really bad to say but I want to see him hurt too. I know that’s not the right way but it’s just what I feel.

How did this shooting affect the Douglas community and its students?

No, we’re never going to be the same. That 3-story building for those who go to the school constantly, it’s something that I personally and the seniors have to walk past every single morning, it’s something that happened to fellow classes. We all have to know what we’re looking at; its not something they can take away; its a crime scene now. And some of my friends, they’re not coming away to college with us. They’re forever stuck there. And thinking about all the freshmen who were in that building and have to live with going to that school for three more years, I don’t think that their experience will ever be the same as mine. “They’re not going to have the same, teachers, and classes that I had. Moving up in the grade without their classmates is really hard and right now, I see a desk and its empty and think “Oh, she’s on vacation; she’ll come back soon. But, then I’m like, she’s not.” It’s not an easy thing to say.

How do you feel about students and adult’s reaction to your movement?

The way that I see the students is that they’re fed up with the adults not doing anything and changing anything and sending us back to school being like, I hope I see you later. It’s a little ridiculous and I hope that never happens to my friends. It never should’ve happened. After Columbine, we should’ve stopped it. As for the adults, the support from them is great. Despite adapting, they should’ve been doing this already and I understand why nothing has changed because they’re just shouting at each other when something happens like this. But, they really should’ve been the ones who changed it; it shouldn’t have been up to us to make the change. They’re quote-on-quote adults, why hasn’t anything been fixed?

What legislation should be passed to prevent the issue of gun violence in the future?

I really feel like a ban on bump stocks or larger magazine clips would be sufficient. The assault rifle part would be efficient in stopping these mass casualties and its a multi layer issue, so the mental health reforms and the background checks and the waiting day period, they are so many things that we can add that don’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, that can prevent this from happening. I don’t understand why people can’t see that. Why is it kids that are telling you that this is what actually is going to work?

Do you think legislation will be passed in the near future, such as measures relating to gun control?

Right now, I don’t think any legislative will come out of this as they are afraid to be not elected, but I think in the coming months, they will not be reelected if they don’t support this and that things are going to change. That’s what they’re concerned about. So we’re going to change that. If you support this change that is supported by so many people in your country, you couldn’t be reelected and that’s what they fear the most, instead of actual change and really doing something.

What provisions are in Florida to prevent gun violence and what actions have they taken since the shooting?

In Florida, they have the Guardian Program, the 3 Day Waiting Period, and the Age up to 21 to buy a gun. It’s actually for the Arming Teachers part of it, as a town needs to decide whether to arm their teachers; Broward County (Parkland’s) has to decide to arm their teachers so it’s up to the county. 3 Day Waiting Period and age from 18-21 to purchase a firearm.

I had a 15 year old or even kids that I babysit who want to be like us because they now have a voice and that they can use their voice for change. It’s crazy to think that we’re inspiring that kind of thing, but even when you’re so young, you can make a difference in the world.

What is your future plan with communication/talking to members of the government in order to continue your movement for gun control and school safety?

Since they’re in Congressional recess, we’re focused on making calls to local branches and writing letters to know that we’re not going to give them a break on this. But for the meeting part, it’s going to start back up again after our Spring Break; it’s the first week that we’ve all had to ourselves to relax. We are planning meetings in the future and whenever we have time.