As survivors of the Parkland shooting tragedy return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, a sadness will be in the air. Some students will also struggle with survivor’s guilt. It’s a feeling that Aalayah Eastmond, a 16-year-old junior at Marjory, is already battling.
Eastmond, who is Black, knew that February 14 was supposed to be a day of love. Instead, the day turned deadly and terrifying after an armed former student Nikolas Cruz took the lives of 17 people.
“It was Valentine’s Day and I thought it was a paintball gun because I saw red on the floor,” she recalled to Megyn Kelly TODAY on Tuesday. “But it was blood and it wasn’t a prank.”
Eastmond was in her Holocaust history class when the shooting began and students started to take cover. She felt “bullets fly by her face,” she recalled. How she survived the terror was due to quick thinking.
“I immediately thought that he was coming inside so I thought, I told myself I needed to look like I was dead as well,” she said.
When the student in front of her was hit by a bullet, she collapsed to the floor with him.
“I just followed his every movement and I fell over with him, and then I put him on top of me, because he was already…” she said as her voice trailed off. “I just told myself I need to look like I’m dead, because I thought he was coming in to get us all one by one.”
Eastmond called her mother, Stacey-Ann Llewellyn, from her classroom. “I told her I love you so much, I am sorry for everything bad I did in my life. Please forgive me,” Eastmond said to her mom.
Eastmond, like many young survivors, has a road of recovery in front of her. Survivors will have to confront feelings of anger, depression and guilt in the days, weeks and months ahead.
“There are a lot of kids who look like they’re doing wonderfully. She looks at times like she’s doing great,” Mark Eiglarsh, an attorney for Eastmond. “But no one’s home with them when they’re crying on the pillow and reliving this nightmare. These kids need therapy.”
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