By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Before students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland set out on a cross-country voter registration campaign this summer, before they took part in a pair of concerts in May and June to fight back against violence with music, four youths who survived the horrific Valentine’s Day massacre that left 34 dead and hurt, joined parents of several victims to share their traumatizing tales with a Boca Raton community group.
With sharp clarity, Eden Hebron, Dylan Kreamer, Julia Cordover and Madison Leal – who escaped death, but suffer enduring scarred psyches — shared recollections of that horrible day with the Boca Parliament, a three-year-old organization of 110 community members, most of Israeli lineage, who meet periodically to hear speakers discuss contemporary topics.
Also on the dais that evening were parents of several students who died in the carnage at the school some 30 miles south of Boca: Dr. Ilan and Lori Alhadeff, parents of Alyssa Alhadeff; Max Schachter, father of 14-year-old Alex Schachter and Andrew Pollack, father of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack.
All spoke frankly and candidly, talking on their own and answering questions posed by Dr. Sherrie Raz, the moderator.
Particularly vocal was Pollack, who had angrily faced President Donald Trump soon after the shooting, calling for improved student safety measures. The irate father whose daughter, Meadow, was killed by Nikolas Cruz, who went on to murder 16 more and wound 17, has also filed a wrongful death suit against School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who was armed and on duty at MSD High when Cruz began firing, but did not confront the killer. “He let my daughter get shot nine times,” he seethed.
The crowd listened intently as students told their stories. Eden Hebron, a 15-year-old freshman, said she will never forget the horrific day that “war came into our classroom.”
She and friends were in room 1216 at 2:21 p.m. for a fourth period class when they heard gunshots. She paused a moment, thinking it might be balloons or other Valentine’s holiday-related noises.
But it wasn’t. It was Cruz, an ex-student armed with an AR-15 rifle approaching them on a mission to kill. Within minutes, he had stolen the lives of 14 innocent classmates and three courageous teachers – assistant football coach Aaron Feis, geography instructor Scott Beigel and athletic director Chris Hixon.
Andrew Pollack pointed out that Feis, a popular and jovial instructor, “went back into the school” to help stricken students. “He didn’t have to.”
Eden said she lost three of her friends in that room. “I heard bullets and screams. I yelled to my friend, Alyssa [14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff]. She was my best friend.”
Alyssa lay dead, shot three times.
Dylan Kreamer, a 17-year-old junior who was in room 1214 when the carnage began, remembered how he “made eye contact with the shooter” just before he heard glass shattering amid chaos. “I saw two of my friends killed. I checked them for a pulse – nothing.”
Julia Cordover, a senior and president of the class, said she used to feel “at home” at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but it is “definitely gloomier. I went home that day wondering what I could do. I researched gun laws. There are so many things that must be done. This was so preventable.”
Junior Madison Leal, age 16, recalled painfully the “17 brilliant and beautiful” people killed on that day. “I don’t know how to make a change in the world [other than to] turn pain into anger, and anger into action.”
Also on hand were Kenneth Preston, a home-schooled, 19-year-old student journalist from Broward County; Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, focusing on education and school safety; Bart Galleta from the Boca Raton Police Department and Gregory Tony, a former Coral Springs police officer who has spent five years working with a team concentrating on active shooting preparedness and threat mitigation specialists.
Meadow Pollack’s dad and other victims’ parents said they remain angry that little, if anything, has been done to secure school children’s security. “It’s infuriating; we have failed our children,” Pollack noted. “Why should our kids worry about being shot at? They shouldn’t have to worry about hiding behind walls.”
“We are frustrated with the number of system failures,” said Max Schachter, whose son played trombone in the school band. “It’s just show and not enough action. We are inspired by our kids. We aren’t going to take it.”
A video was shown of a modern intruder containment system at a school in Illinois, one that equips teachers with devices which, when activated, connect directly to police. Classroom doors in hallways lock automatically on command, and clouds of smoke can be ejected from ceilings to befuddle intruders. Many in the crowd said a similar system is needed in this area.
Students suggested more aggressive safety measures: Bulletproof windows and doors along with metal detectors. Madison urged posting one security officer for each 3,500 students – or three more for MSD.
“I am inspired by people who are taking steps and doing something,” said Schachter, as he encouraged others to “speak up until you see change.”