Teens are not staying silent about what happened at a high school in Florida this week.
Their emotions ran raw and unvarnished, many bravely taking to social media to publicly post what they feel the world needs to hear.
“I don’t feel safe.”
“What is our world coming to?”
“I want my friends back.”
The heartbreaking thoughts echoed online, making the reality of how our children are growing up just a little too real. Lockdown drills and school shootings are the only life they have known.
CNN has blurred the names of the teens who shared these posts on social media for their safety and to protect their privacy.
“It just sucks that this is something we now have to worry about,” Leo, 15, from Massachusetts, told CNN. “It’s not just a few people, but literally an entire country has to worry about if they’re going to die at school today or tomorrow, this period or next period.”
The day of the Parkland shooting, which claimed 17 lives, Leo had an ALICE drill, which is a type of school lockdown drill.
“There are times where not a lot is going on in class and I think, ‘What if the alarm goes off right now?’ This is something constantly on our minds. It’s like the new normal.”
Leo was on YouTube when he saw a news organization post about the Florida school shooting on Wednesday. At first, he said he didn’t have much of a reaction. It’s hard not to become desensitized, he said.
“When I saw everything that was lost and the footage inside, when I started thinking about the drills earlier and my anxiety has been through the roof this week, I’m annoyed and upset that this is still happening.”
Leo and his classmate Rylie, also 15, have been talking a lot after the Florida shooting. She texted Leo annoyed that people were making light of what happened.
“I was in gym class and people were joking around. Everyone’s joking and it’s not funny,” Rylie told CNN.
She also mentioned the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, saying it was a good example of how teachers are saving lives in these situations. She and her friends have talked about being “pretty lucky to have teachers putting us first.”
While Rylie didn’t publicly post on social media, she said she shared a simple message with her friends on Snapchat.
Many teens shared messages about not feeling safe in school. Others called out for schools to do more to teach students what to do in these situations.
Across the ocean, 15-year-old Ethan from the United Kingdom posted a similar message of not feeling safe at his high school anymore.
“I’m not afraid, but if this happened in that school, how do I know it’s not going to happen in my school?” he told CNN.
The British teen talked about the slight comfort he has from living in a country where gun ownership laws are much stricter.
“It’s better over here because we can’t buy guns. I think that needs to happen in America, as well,” he said. “But there are still knives and other things that could be taken into schools.”
Ethan also started talking about what solutions he sees to making shootings like this less common.
“I think guns need to be less widely available,” he said. “I think metal detectors should be compulsory. If there was a metal detector in the at school, he would not have been able to get to all those students.”
Leo, the American, had strong feelings about what we can do as a country to make this stop. Seeing politicians post with their thoughts and prayers isn’t helping, he said.
“I feel like actually taking it seriously would be a good start. We haven’t seen any action from lawmakers,” he said.
Beyond the charged words about gun control and how America can fix its trend of school shootings, there are the powerful stories of the people who survived.
And the young lives that were lost.
Aidan, a teen who hid in his math class while the shooter was loose, shared advice with another teen who is now afraid to go to school.
“James, do not be afraid. Learn from what these survivors did and the routes they [have] taken. Learn from those who were slain, and always be aware,” he wrote. “Love everyone; even your bullies.”