People in Parkland, Florida, and across the country are remembering those killed last week in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students and others impacted by school shootings are pushing lawmakers for stricter gun legislation.
Melissa Falkowski, a journalism and English teacher at the school who hid 19 students in her classroom closet when she learned there was an active shooter, spoke with Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti while getting ready for 16-year-old victim Carmen Schentrup's funeral.
"I've already been to two funerals. They're horrible, they're gut-wrenching," Falkowski says. "Just the loss of the potential of what they could have accomplished is just so profound. And for me, I get very ... I cry through my anger, but I'm so angry that this has happened to us. I'm so angry that our community has to go through this. And it's just, it's just so unfair. It's just unfair."
On her experience during the shooting
"I walked back to my room, I unlocked the door, hold the door open, my kids start to file back in. I don't have all of them. I stand in the doorway, yelling to kids, other teachers are coming back, unlocking their doors, and I'm just yelling to kids to get inside, anywhere, any classroom, anywhere, it doesn't matter where you're supposed to be. And then after a minute or two, I know I have to close the door, so I close the door, take attendance and we have kids missing from the room, so we're texting them to find out where they are, and they all ended up in the classroom that's underneath mine in the same building, because they made it to the bottom of the stairwell and then they got scooped up into a classroom.
"And then, you know, we can hear sirens and helicopters, and I made the decision that we were gonna go into the closet, because I don't know what's going on, but I know it's not a drill, because there's no way a drill is happening at 2:30 in the afternoon. And so we were in the closet together. I thought we were in there for 30 minutes, but I've seen the kids, and they told me we were in there ... we were in the closet for an hour and 15 minutes before the SWAT team came."
"I've spoken to my mom since then, and she was crying, and she said, 'I never thought that I should tell you when I was on the phone with you that I love you,' and like she missed that opportunity to tell me, and what if something had happened?"Melissa Falkowski, on talking with her mom in the wake of last week's shooting
On getting a call from her mom while hiding with students in the closet
"My mom called me to check on me, and, you know, I couldn't ... I just couldn't speak, because I just wanted to break down and cry. And so she said, 'Are you OK?' I could only give her like one-word answers, and so she asked if I was OK. And I said, 'Yes.' And then I said, 'Mom, I have to get off the phone,' and I hung up with her, because I can't be sobbing, hysterical in the closet with these kids that I'm trying to tell everything's OK, and then I'm standing there sobbing. And then, you know, I've spoken to my mom since then, and she was crying, and she said, 'I never thought that I should tell you when I was on the phone with you that I love you,' and like she missed that opportunity to tell me, and what if something had happened, you know? So yeah, that's tough."
On the AR-15-style rifle the shooter used
"I feel very strongly that those are not the type of weapons that should be in the hands of anybody who is not, you know, military personnel. I understand and I respect the Second Amendment, people's right to protect themselves. I just think that there has to be common ground where we can work together, regardless of political affiliation, to protect kids in schools. And I just think there are certain areas that I think that we have to be on the same page about in terms of these assault rifles, and these bump stocks, and the number of bullets that fit in a magazine and whether or not it's tracked and monitored how many bullets you're buying, because my husband and I discussed the fact that we can't even go to the store and buy more than a certain number of sinus pills without signing and showing our driver's license. And I just think that there has to be somewhere that Republicans and Democrats can come together and make change."
"I just think that there has to be common ground where we can work together, regardless of political affiliation, to protect kids in schools."Melissa Falkowski
On her reaction to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and others speaking out about gun violence
"I mean our students are amazing. I am so encouraged by some of the things I've been seeing, other students across the nation are sort of picking up the mantle, too, and holding their own protests. I saw what was going on in front of the White House yesterday, and I think that's amazing. I mean, our kids, they are the future, and I think that, if this generation can't get it done, then their generation is going to."
This article was originally published on February 20, 2018.
This segment aired on February 20, 2018.