The Parkland Teens Are Giving These Columbine Survivors Hope

Last week, Austin Eubanks had just covered up his speech   at a school in Co when he noticed he had a message on his phone. This from a local news station wondering to talk. He didn’ t have to ask what about.

“ I simply wrote back, ‘ How poor is it? ’ ” Eubanks said.

It was bad. Down in Parkland, Florida, a lone gunman acquired shot and killed 17 individuals inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior high school, a death toll higher than the main one inside Eubanks’ own high school which was targeted by two gunmen whenever he was a teenager.

The assault on Columbine High School in 1999 remaining 15 dead and forever changed the lives of countless other people. It was, at that time, the deadliest school shooting within modern U. S. history . Blame was omnidirectional ― on the parents of the shooters, at the local community they grew up in, even on the musicians they listened to and the video gaming they played.  

In the nearly two decades since that day, the particular students of Columbine High School have grown up. They’ lso are adults now, some with kids of their own. Alongside all of them, attacks like the one at Columbine have grown, too, transforming from unfathomable occurrences to the sort of thing you should expect to see on CNN every now and then.

“ It’ s be a fact of life, ” stated Samantha Haviland, another Columbine survivor, with a note of resignation within her voice.

Joe Raedle via Getty Pictures
Students  are escorted out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior high school after a shooting at the school within Parkland, Florida,   last week.

Today, Columbine no longer even rates among the top ten deadliest shootings within modern U. S. history. Which the government has done so little to reduce the particular frequency of shootings like the 1 they experienced has become a source of annoyance, anger and, occasionally, cynicism amongst five Columbine survivors who talked with HuffPost.

But in the last 7 days, something has changed. Watching the Stoneman Douglas students scream for weapon control ever since the attack by themselves school in Florida, some of the survivors of the Columbine attack have found the renewed sense of hope they will didn’ t expect to feel once again for some time.

“ I actually got nearly excited with anticipation that this may be the change that we’ ve all tried for for such a long time, ” said Anne Marie Hochhalter , who was immobilized at Columbine after being photo in the back.

“ Probably this will be the answer, ” she additional. “ Maybe this will finally encourage on these lawmakers to do some thing. Just do something . ”

Hyoung Chang via Getty Images
Anne Marie Hochhalter (right) prays during an event to remember  all those lost during the  Columbine  assault. She says she became frustrated with her lawmakers over time.

Hochhalter had wanted to trust congress after the Columbine attack. “ At first, I thought that it would not happen once again, ” Hochhalter said. “ I was like, ‘ Ok last one, I mean, the lawmakers will take proper care of this. They’ ll change elements, right? ’ ”

Due to that trust, she said, the girl didn’ t feel a have to enter the political fray. She wasn’ t alone. Zachary Carta ya, who was trapped inside Columbine High School for three . 5 hours the day of the attack, said numerous survivors just wanted to return to several semblance of a normal life. Few thought of joining the particular national conversation. What would they have got said, anyway?

“ Whenever Columbine happened, none of us had been prepared for anything close to advocacy because we had no frame associated with reference for what had taken place. We didn’ t know what has been happening. I mean, it was incomprehensible exactly what had occurred, ” said Eubanks, who lost his best friend within the Columbine attack and was themselves shot multiple times.

Richard Castaldo, who had been also paralyzed in the attack, got on some of his father’ h political views. A year after Columbine, Castaldo’ s father, Rick, was before Congress and said it had been “ illogical” and “ dishonest” to blame guns for that attack. “ I wasn’ t really politically active at that time, ” Castaldo mentioned. “ I think he or she sort of talked me into that will position. ”

Helen H. Richardson through Getty Images
Rich Castaldo, who was also paralyzed within the Columbine attack, says he desires to do whatever he can to help the  Stoneman Douglas students’ cause.

One student who did attempt to change things was Haviland, that joined the organization Crime Stoppers Worldwide. “ I traveled internationally with regard to four years ― tried to prevent happening again, ” she stated. But she couldn’ t. College shootings started to become the norm. Therefore did mass shootings in public areas. “ It just kept occurring and happening, ” she mentioned.

Haviland longed for change, yet as the years passed, and the quantity of school shootings continued to grow within number, it became harder to think it would happen. If anything, stuff got worse. In 2004, congress allowed the federal ban upon assault weapons to lapse, as well as the number of deaths from gun massacres jumped 239 percent over the following decade.

When former President Barack Obama couldn’ to push through gun reform laws and regulations after a shooter killed 20 kids at Sandy Hook Elementary College in 2012, Haviland had a grim believed: How unfortunate do we have to be before all of us change? Frustrated, she decided it was time to confess to herself that nobody had been ever going to do anything to significantly combat mass shootings.

Ray Ng through Getty Images
Zachary Cartaya  took this photograph with this particular family  soon after after surviving  the particular Columbine attack in 1999. He says he could be “so proud” of the Stoneman Douglas students.

She wasn’ big t alone in her cynicism. Castaldo eventually came to disagree with his father’ s anti-gun control stance. He or she feels the country needs stronger background record checks and a more rigorous system just for selling high-powered guns. But he or she also felt the message often seemed to get lost after mass shootings. Cartaya felt that unless the nation found a way to “ remove all of the money from politics, ”   it would be difficult to move forward. Hochhalter dropped trust in her lawmakers as the girl came to understand the true political energy of the National Rifle Association.

“ When I was younger, I really thought that all things would change, ” mentioned Hochhalter. “ And then, with every subsequent mass shooting, the wish slowly diminished. ”

RHONA WISE via Getty Images
Students move at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior high school after participating in a county broad school walk out in Parkland, Sarasota on Feb. 21, 2018.

But shortly after the shooting, Haviland, Hochhalter, Eubanks, Carta ya and Castaldo all of the noticed that something different has been happening. Rather than turn inward, the particular Stoneman Douglas high schoolers began to speak out ― first upon Twitter, then on television, then with rallies,   courthouses plus CNN town halls . They will asked the president to do a lot more, pushed for gun control plus against NRA talking points.

“ It seems like they’ re certainly determined to make sure something actually adjustments this time, which is good, ” mentioned Castaldo. “ Which is great. ”

Times after the shooting, Emma Gonzá lez, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, walked in front of a microphone at a move and managed to get clear she would not place the exact same faith in her lawmakers that will Hochhalter once acquired . “ The people in the authorities who are voted into power are usually lying to us, ” the lady said. “ And us children seem to be the only ones who discover and are prepared to call B. S i9000. ”

Stoneman Douglas pupil Robert Bonczek echoed Gonzá lez over Twitter. “ The one thing that bothers myself the most about this whole situation is the fact that we don’ t have the time for you to grieve. We have such little belief in our politicians, and we know that whenever we are not constantly pleading for action absolutely nothing will get done. ”

In a listening session held by Chief executive Donald Trump at the White Home on Wednesday, another Stoneman Douglas pupil, Samuel Zeif, asked why the shooter has been so easily able to obtain a good AR-15-style weapon: “ How s it this easy to buy this kind of weapon? How have we not really stopped this after Columbine, right after Sandy Hook? ”  

MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images
Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor  Samuel Zeif is overcome with feeling during a listening session on weapon violence with President Trump.

It has been a startling departure through mass shootings of the past. Unshrinking from trolls on social media or even Florida’ s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, the students of Stoneman Douglas have ripped control of the particular conversation away from the adults ― a feat that the Columbine survivors see as nothing short of remarkable.

“ I’ m so happy with them, ” Cartaya said, “ and I don’ t even understand them. ”

The Stoneman Douglas survivors have grown up in a various world than the Columbine survivors do ― one in which school shootings are a fact of life. “ I lived in a world which was so safe, ” said Haviland of her suburban life within Colorado before the attack. “ Used to do not expect gun violence in different of my environments ― not to mention at my school. ”   Kids coming of age today, however , have raised up in a world in which college shootings are an inevitability ― a few when and where, not if.

“ These types of students weren’ t even given birth to when Columbine happened, ” Eubanks said. “ These students have become up doing active shooters exercises their entire lives, so when this particular happened, I don’ t wish to say they were prepared for it psychologically ― [but] these people knew immediately what it was. ”

Worse still, he added, the particular weapons threatening them are even more effective. “ I mean, Columbine had 2 shooters, multiple weapons each plus there were 13 people killed, ” said Eubanks. “ In this capturing, with the AR-15 involved, we had one particular shooter and there were 17 individuals killed. ”

RHONA WISE via Getty Pictures
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzá lez hugs her father Jose right after speaking at a rally for weapon control at the Broward County Government Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fl on Feb. 17, 2018.

After the Columbine shooting, Haviland mentioned, she and others spent a lot of time “ pointing fingers. ” But the politics environment is different now, and that’ s reflected in the actions from the Stoneman Douglas students. “ Seems like instead of being victims, they’ re going to be activists, ” she said.

“ It’ h amazing to me, ” agreed Hochhalter. “ When we all went through this at Columbine, we were in a haze and a daze. And I’ mirielle sure that these kids are sensation that way, too, to some extent, but they’ re putting their energy straight into activism, and I think that that’ h a really healthy way to deal with the particular horrific emotions surrounding what they simply went through. ”

The Stoneman Douglas students have already faced the difficulty of the the country’ s poisonous political culture. People have accused all of them of mourning incorrectly or to be mouthpieces for the left. Conspiracy advocates have accused some of the students to be “ crisis actors, ” most of to the disgust of the Columbine survivors. “ Unless you have been there, close up, ” Eubanks said.

“ They went through a tragedy, and today they’ re getting defamed for going through a disaster, ” said Castaldo. “ I actually don’ t understand that at all. ”

Next month, the students associated with Stoneman Douglas plan to hold the national “ March For Our Lives” to continue their campaign to put an end to school shootings around the nation, and the Columbine survivors are interested within participating or doing anything else they could. “ Anything I can do, I actually definitely want to help, ” Castaldo said. ” Because obviously it affected myself. It affected me for the rest of my entire life, so I definitely want to do anything I could. ”

As is to become expected in a swing state such as Colorado, not every Columbine survivor is really a proponent of gun control. One of these, Patrick Neville, is now a His party Colorado House minority leader. Each year since 2014, he has put  forth a bill   that would allow people to legally provide guns to K-12 schools through the entire state. ” Time and again we point to the one common concept with mass shootings, they happen in gun-free zones , ” he said in an interview recently.

The Columbine survivors do have a few concerns about the Parkland teens. They wish to make sure the Stoneman Douglas students take the time to seek professional counseling ― some thing they say too many Columbine students prevented for too long. “ These children may score a major political triumph and, God help me, I hope they actually, ” said Cartaya. “ However what’ s next? ”

“ It is a constant battle. And if a person slip even a little bit you drop really hard, and that’ s originating from experience, ” he added.

All of the Columbine survivors have grappled with the attack in their own method. Carta ya was properly on his way to a successful career within finance when he started having trouble seated in conference rooms — claustrophobia brought on by the shooting, he later on realized. Whenever he or she hears of a new attack, he or she said, “ it’ s normally hard to not revert back to the particular 17-year-old me, who walked out from the school shaken and traumatized. ” ( This individual now works with other Columbine survivors to help people that went through similar attacks. )

Austin Eubanks
Left: Austin Eubanks’ yearbook photo while at Columbine Senior high school.
Right: Eubanks nowadays. He runs an addiction therapy center in Colorado.

Eubanks struggled with addiction for a 10 years after the attack before he obtained clean and started an addiction treatment middle . Hochhalter said she still provides trouble leaving her house right after learning of any new bulk shooting out of fear someone may open fire. She still offers “ flashbacks. ”

“ B ut it’ s not like I’ m back again at Columbine when I get the flashbacks, ” she said. “ Once i get them, I’ m transported straight into where the shooting is. ” After a shooter killed fifty eight people in Las Vegas last Oct, she decided to go back into counseling.

The survivors who spoke along with HuffPost also made clear that, in contrast to some critics, they do not believe guidance and advocacy should be mutually exceptional. “ I encourage their individual care, but also their outrage. They have got every right to be pissed away from, ” Haviland said.

Asked exactly what advice she had for them, the lady added, “ Don’ t allow people forget. ”

The learners of Stoneman Douglas are trying to ensure people don’ t. On Thursday night morning, Stoneman Douglas student Carly Novell posted a message on Tweets that has since been retweeted over 10, 000 times.   It’ s point was clear.  

“ I don’ t want [Stoneman Douglas] to be remembered because ‘ the school that had the particular shooting, ’ ” she had written. “ I want it to appreciated as the school that started the revolution. ”