BY JACQUI GODDARD, LONDON TIMES ~~
Children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland long for the days when the definition of adversity was a failed science experiment. After the massacre of 17 pupils and staff, it is now measured by the body count of their dead friends, by funerals, grieving families, post-traumatic stress, political struggle and the abuse and hatred they have encountered for taking on the deeply polarizing issue of gun reform.
David Hogg, 17, the charismatic student journalist who co-founded with Emma Gonzalez the #NeverAgain anti-gun movement, has received death threats, according to his mother, Rebecca Boldrick, 51. Online trolls have spun conspiracy theories that he is an actor hired to spread left-wing propaganda, accused him of being an FBI stooge and a Democratic puppet. They have leveled foul-mouthed vitriol, saying he is “dancing on graves for his cause.”
His sister Lauren, 14, who lost four friends in the shooting, has had neo-Nazi abuse posted on her social media account telling her to die. The family has been forced into an upheaval the details of which they cannot share publicly because of the need to keep their movements and whereabouts guarded—but it involves the FBI, sheriff’s deputies and a lot of fear.
“Can you imagine that? Death threats. These are kids, their friends died, they’re trying to do something about it, and they get death threats,” Mrs. Boldrick told The Times.
“It’s really hard on Lauren seeing this attention on her brother. She’s 14, she logs on to her Instagram account and sees a comment saying, ‘Die, horse-skank.’ I’ve been called a hard parent, a cold-hearted bitch steering my son on some agenda. Every one of those freaks saying stuff like that just makes us more determined.
“Do I worry about his safety? Yes. But is that going to stop us? No,” she said.
Mrs. Boldrick, who works as a teacher at a different school, added: “If my son and all those other kids weren’t making a difference, these people wouldn’t be pissed at them. Change terrifies people.”
After intense lobbying and public pressure, Rick Scott, Florida’s Republican governor, presented legislative proposals yesterday (Feb. 22) that include raising the minimum age for buying guns in the state from 18 to 21, and measures to make it “virtually impossible” for people with mental health problems to use guns.
He called for an armed officer to be posted in every Florida school and for $500 million in funding for improved mental health counseling in schools. He also wants improved protection methods including metal detectors, steel doors and “active shooter training” for all staff and pupils.
Scott, a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), stopped short, however, of meeting the pupils’ call for a ban on assault weapons. “I’ve listened to their ideas to make sure this never happens again. It took a lot of guts. What they have gone through is devastating,” he said.
The pupils will continue pressing for a ban on assault weapons.
David Hogg remained defiant yesterday despite the torrent of abuse he has had to face. “The trolls—they’re deflating but also invigorating,” he said. “It’s a pretty good thing, because they’re making sure our voices are being heard. People think I was too well spoken to be an actual child, and to that I say, ‘Thank you for being disgraceful and immature, because you just bought this cause even more publicity.’ ”
Police and paramedics from the neighboring town of Coral Springs, home to 60 percent of Stoneman Douglas pupils, shared stories of heartbreak and heroism yesterday. Some broke down as they relived the drama.
“I wish I could have got there sooner and stopped this,” said Chris Crawford, a former US Marine who has been with the police force for 15 years. “It’s awful, it’s as bad as you can imagine, times ten.”
He was one of the first on the scene. “I was told to clear the parking lot, looking for injured students or faculty, and look for the bad guy. We didn’t want to get ambushed. I was thinking, ‘He’s either going to be killed by me, I’m going to be killed by him, or I’m going to help an injured child.’ ”
He found a 14-year-old boy bleeding from multiple bullet wounds. “He said he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t walk, so I laid him down on the grass,” Crawford said, describing how he packed a gauze combat dressing into the biggest wound then got another officer to “put his knee into this kid’s back” to keep pressure on the gaping wound.
The boy survived.