Glimmer of Hope is the official, definitive book from The March for Our Lives founders. In keeping up with their ongoing fight to end gun violence in all communities, the student leaders of March for Our Lives have decided not to be paid as authors of the book. 100% of net proceeds from this book will be paid to March For Our Lives Action Fund.
THE FIRST DAY BACK AT SCHOOL: FEBRUARY 28
Adam Alhanti: There’s no handbook for rebuilding after a school shooting. No one knew what to do.
David Hogg: It’s like, the best way I can describe it is imagine getting in a plane crash and then having to get on that same plane every day without fixing the problem that caused the plane crash in the first place, and just having to expect, like, “Yeah, it’s not going to happen.” And learn. You can’t. I couldn’t.
John Barnitt: Going back on the first day was when I realized that this isn’t a thing that’s going to go away. This will be with us forever. Those six minutes on February 14 will be with us forever. It’s weird to think that we even had to have a
first day back after a shooting. We went to this place for years, and then you have to be reintroduced to this school you’ve called a home.
Jaclyn Corin: We only got two weeks off, which was surprising to me. A lot of kids weren’t ready. Personally, I was ready to go back just because I wanted to be in that environment. I wanted to be surrounded by other people because I didn’t want to be alone. But it wasn’t really fair for some people.
Kyrah Simon: I had a lot of anxiety. I was debating if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay home. There were a lot of people who thought it was better to stay home rather than go back that soon.
Ryan Deitsch: There was a funeral on the first orientation day back. That same day. And they had teachers coming in anyway. Whether you were going to every funeral or not, they were still happening all around you. It still hadn’t ended. Yet they were acting like it had.
Adam: The first thing you were supposed to do that first day back was to get your stuff, because we’d all left without our backpacks and the rest of our things that day. So first I went to the last class I was in, to get my bag and my laptop, and whatever else I had left behind that day. I remember there was still Valentine’s Day stuff in the room I went into. Teddy bears, valentines, saggy half-deflated helium balloons—at the point where they’re not floating, but not on the floor.
Alfonso Calderon: Usually I drive to school, but my mom wanted to drive me back. You know how parents are.
It was still the same school, same hallways, but the energy transformed.John Barnitt
Daniel Williams: My mom and I share a car. I wanted to drive my siblings to school on our first day back, but my mom really insisted on driving us. My brother Andrew is a sophomore and my sister Vanessa is a freshman. Normally I’d push back, but I understood. She needed to see her kids off to school on our first day back.
Adam: Usually in the morning, when school starts, there’s this roar of kids eating breakfast and talking with their friends, and the rush of finishing homework. But on that day it was silent. Not a single person was speaking.
John: I walked those halls every day—that’s where my teachers were, that’s where I was growing relationships, going to clubs—school was a happy place. It was still the same school, same hallways, but the energy transformed. The place I used to think of as my happy little school had completely transformed into a place where crying echoed through the hallways. No one knew how to act because no one had ever been through it before—we were all going through it at the same time.
Daniel: That first day wasn’t about getting back into a routine, it was just about being comfortable being in the building again. My walk into school that day followed the same evacuation route I had to take on February 14. I had to retrace those steps. It was an eerie feeling to be in some of those same spots, but this time things looked a lot different. There were flowers everywhere and signs people had made. We were surrounded by support.
Alfonso: It was like a circus. I expected a big to-do for the kids, but it was almost ridiculous. It felt like there were six hundred police officers, which was good because we needed the police officers, but also kind of ridiculous. I got dropped off, I walked across the street, and all of the police officers were just cheering and smiling, saying, “Welcome back!” It was nice and comforting, but at the same time it felt kind of disrespectful, in my opinion. Seventeen people died there two weeks before that day. Two weeks. It felt like everybody was pretending like nothing happened.
Sarah Chadwick: I just remember just walking in and there were poodles and dogs everywhere and just like, seeing the school, there was like police officers lined up with flowers, and the police officers were giving us flowers, all in a line as we passed by.
Chris Grady: We knew that it was important we go back, so we did, and I knew I kind of had to go back to be there for a lot of my friends who were scared about going back. The whole street leading up to the school was just filled with cop cars, and I don’t know, I think they were trying to do a show of strength, but it just kind of—it rubbed me the wrong way.
Delaney Tarr: It wasn’t a day of education by any means. But it was probably one of the more therapeutic experiences that I’ve had. I can’t say that that’s true for everyone, but for me school was one of the few places that I didn’t feel I had to put on this face for the media. Where I didn’t feel like I had to explain myself constantly because even with your family, they are affected by it, but they aren’t in it. So they don’t necessarily know. At school I was around, especially in my newspaper class, people who were there. The people who I was with during the shooting. And that definitely made me feel more comfortable, and more able to be vulnerable without criticizing it or saying that I’m doing it for the cameras, without having to put on that brave face and switch into interview mode, or speech mode, or legislator mode, or anything like that. It was just, I could be myself. Genuinely, truly, who I was before the shooting, who I am after the shooting. I didn’t have to try and be anything.
Daniel: I was glad to be with my friends because you could have an open conversation with them. People assume you don’t want to talk about it, but it helps to talk about it. Everyone shared where they were. Some people were far away, some people happened to leave thirty seconds before the shooting started.
Ryan: The only solace I found was seeing my friends. The only good thing about it was the therapy dogs. The dogs were cute. Daniel: In our first period we played with Play-Doh. In our second period we painted rocks. There were therapy dogs everywhere. It really helped. I heard the principal say, “You think this is a lot of dogs? Wait until tomorrow.” There were dogs there all week.
David: I didn’t know how to feel about it, I just did it. And for me it was just sad the first couple days because we were like toddlers. We were playing with Play-Doh and coloring and shit and, like, that was tough to see. There was a lot of posters around that helped a lot. Therapy dogs were probably the most helpful thing for our school.
Kevin Trejos: A strategy I’ve used throughout this experience is that I’ve dealt with it by sort of hiding behind my camera. I was already back at the school by February 15 or 16, taking photos that I knew would be used in the paper. The excuse of going to take photos for journalism reasons helped me deal with what had happened there. So that day, like before, I brought my camera. I was probably the only person in the school with a DSLR since they didn’t let media in. That helped me deal with stuff. Adam: At that point we didn’t know if we were taking AP exams, and our finals were in a few weeks. We all wanted to know, but the teachers kept saying not to worry about it.
Jaclyn: We had no idea if we had to take AP exams, we just had no idea what we were walking into. We didn’t know what was going to happen to our grades. I took a test on Valentine’s Day and I didn’t know if it was going to count.
Ryan: I’m in TV production class and one of the assignments before the shooting was making a short PSA. I filmed the PSA on February 13, and I had not touched my camera since that day. Our teacher set a due date when we returned, but when I started to look at all of this footage of us before the tragedy, it was just too hard. The teacher understood and that project was canceled. I share that class with David Williams and Delaney Tarr, and we were working on those projects together. Looking at footage of us before the shooting, before any of this, it was really difficult.
Jaclyn: There were just so many things going through my head, me being an academic nerd, that I was just worrying about school and then I thought, “Why am I worrying about school?” I was stressed because I had so much March for Our Lives stuff to do and I thought, “I can’t be here. I need to be in the office.”
Ryan: Since I had joined this group and we had been doing a lot of important activism work, sitting down in a classroom almost felt wasteful. I mean just in the first couple of weeks being back, there was the shooting in Yountville, California, at the Pathway Home, a non-profit PTSD program at the Veterans Home of California. I was speaking to people from Yountville while I was in math class. It was a difficult balance to strike. I didn’t want to let anyone down, but I still needed to live my life as a high school student.
Emma González: I don’t actually remember first day back where all the classes were because it was really difficult, nothing made sense, ’cause like nobody in the freshman building was able to go back to their classes, obviously.
Kevin: We walked in through the side of the school across from the freshman building. We could see that they’d boarded up windows that were shot through. They’d also blocked everything off.
Chris: They had panels over the windows that had bullet holes in them.
Glimmer of Hope
By The March for Our Lives Founders
Also available from:
Adam: I parked in the senior lot, which is right next to the freshman building, where the shooting took place. I got out of my car and we had to go to one of the three entrances—they had us use the one next to the freshman building. There were probably about a thousand of us going in at that point, and we all had to walk past that building. That was probably the harshest moment for me. It’s the closest I’d been to the building since that day.
Daniel: They built a huge fence around the freshman building. I walked past the building several times each day, so seeing it now with windows boarded up was pretty shocking. The first class I ever had at MSD was in that building. I thought back to that classroom, I have a vivid memory of that class, my first high school class. I had fond memories there. It’s the staple of our school; it’s the first building you see. Now they are going to knock it down.
Adam: A few days later we had to go get our cars back from the lot, and I remember walking as far from the freshman building as I could. If the parking lot was twenty feet wide, and the building was to the left, I was on the right. There was no chance I was getting close to it. I tried my hardest to avoid it during that period of time, although of course when we went back for real, there wasn’t really any way to avoid it.
Kyrah: They fenced off the freshman 1200 building—obviously, we can never go back there. There are so many teachers without classrooms. I had my psychology class in the same class as my history class. You could see anger and pain in teachers’ faces. Everything had changed for them too.
Daniel: We started the day off with fourth period, which was when the shooting happened. I really appreciated that they did that, it helped get it over with.
Delaney: I know that a lot of us in my newspaper class, because that’s where I was during the shooting, made a point of trying to go in the closet that first day because that’s where we were hiding during it. To just try and not relive it but see, can we even function as normal people anymore, have we healed at all, can we continue to heal? And that’s what the day was.
Cameron Kasky: Trauma is one thing we all share.
David: The main thing I did, was I just went out to Marjory’s Garden, where I was working the morning of the shooting. I’d created this hydroponics thing with some of the teachers, and I’d planted a bunch of peas that morning in there and now they had grown into full-blown plants with, like, peas everywhere. So I went out there and harvested those, and just sat out there in the sun and just listened, you know? It’s a very calming and therapeutic area of our school.
Ryan: The first week back, they had police officers holding the same weapon our shooter used. I don’t know who made that decision, but they were on the corner of every building. It made the school feel like a prison colony. The most ridiculous part, which I saw from the highway and from my astronomy class, was the garden. The astronomy classroom overlooks the garden. The astronomy teacher had worked on that garden for several years, and students helped. David loved it there. There were two officers holding semiautomatic weapons protecting the garden. The garden! No threat, no evil, just flowers and AR-15s.
Kyrah: Those first few days back were a mix of comfort and anxiety. I knew that things would never be normal again, school would never feel normal again, so I would have to get adjusted to a new normal. To me, the increased security—police officers everywhere, walking around with AR-15s—that was a real symbol of the fact that things will never be the same. They added fencing and barricades everywhere, they gave us clear backpacks. They transformed the way our school functioned and then claimed that we were getting back to normal. Get back to academics, study for your SATs. And walking around campus, it just wasn’t normal.
John: A lot of people wanted to go back to normal. They just wanted structure in their life and they wanted school to just go back to being school, but there were other people who needed that time to heal. But since our school is so big, you can’t decide, and you don’t know when it’s a healthy time to slowly start going back to some normality. I feel like the school did the best that they could, slowly bringing us back into some structure and to a regular day of school.
Cameron: The best feeling in the entire world was seeing my teachers. This whole tragedy had a life-altering impact for everyone involved, but the teaching staff still had to do their jobs. They were just as brave as we were for coming back to school. We had two weeks off, but they had one. They went right back and they got ready. They were selfless. They only cared about us. I never understood the degree to which teachers care for their students until the shooting. They were there for us and it was so moving to me.
Sofie Whitney: I think a lot of people don’t realize that while obviously, the kids were all completely shaken up by everything that happened, even if they weren’t in the building, the teachers had the same experience as us. They’re humans. They don’t have a special part of their brains that made them better suited to be in that situation than we were. I think people don’t realize how much it affected them.
Alfonso: On the first day back, Mr. Levine, my English teacher, kicked off the discussion by asking, “Can humankind achieve peace?” to kids who just went through something antithetical to peace, kids who were unsure. He basically wanted to inspire us to think about that question and write something about how we were feeling. His message was that peace can be achieved even if people don’t know what to do. There were a lot of kids in that class who were saying, “We’ve gotta make schools like prisons. We have to get fences and metal detectors. We need soldiers.” More of this, more of that. I remember thinking, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but how is that supposed to fix everything? I didn’t really argue either, I wasn’t in the mood to say anything. I’d spoken out for two weeks. I just hung my head low, but at the end of class, I thanked Mr. Levine for talking about something that is sensitive but much needed. I had wished that in any other class, a teacher had the balls to say, “Hey, kids, this happened. Now we have to think about it and move through it.”
Sarah: In sociology class, every morning when we do attendance the teacher asks a question and we answer it individually, and that’s how he takes attendance. I remember that his question that day was “Do you feel safe?” and a lot of people honestly answered, “No, I don’t feel safe.” Because, no, of course, we don’t feel safe. I mean, we have therapy dogs, we have armed security everywhere, but the fact that it happened is still lingering in the back of our minds, and it will always be there.
John: I was used to my teachers talking about what you’re doing that day, if you have a test, what you’re studying that week. And that day was completely different. They were saying things like, “We’re going to get through this. We’re going to do anything we can to make this an easier transition.” And to see all my teachers who I looked up to, now turned to these real people. Because they’re affected by it too. They have emotions, they might not know how to feel, and they were upset and crying too.
Cameron: Ernest Rospierski was a teacher in the freshman building. The shooter came right by his door. Mr. Rospierski is one of my favorite teachers. His classroom was right next to Scott Beigel’s classroom, and I know they were friends. He was extremely dedicated to his students and to teaching before the shooting, but even more so afterward. I didn’t think that was possible.
Daniel: All the teachers were very supportive. They didn’t know what to do either. The shooting impacted them as much as it had us. No one wanted to jump back into the curriculum. We couldn’t just gloss over it and get back to work. I remember hugging a lot of teachers, even teachers from past years. Even if you didn’t like the teacher, everyone was just happy to see each other. The teachers just wanted us to know that all they cared about was our mental and physical health. They were so understanding.
John: A moment I really remember is seeing my teacher Mr. Schaller. He always has a smile on his face, he laughs, he tells jokes, and he’s a great teacher, but he’s also very professional. He has such a structure to his class. He was one of my favorite teachers that year, and just walking up to him and saying hello like I always would and seeing how vulnerable he was that day, you saw that he cared about his students and that he felt like he failed his students. He didn’t know what to do. He gave me a hug, which was so weird to me because usually I would walk into class, sit down, and say hi and that’s it. Seeing him be more of a friend than my teacher . . . It’s breaking that barrier between student and teacher and being this group of people who endured something so tragic and having school be reshaped as not just a place of learning but also a place of coping.
Ryan: Some teachers were angry, some didn’t want to come back, others were acting like nothing had happened at all. And you can’t pretend that nothing has happened when you look down the school hallways and every high school, middle school, and elementary school in the country has sent a banner that says, “We’re standing with you.” The writing is literally on the walls that shows that this isn’t normal, that this shouldn’t have happened. To come back after two weeks, it’s like nothing.
Alex Wind: My calculus teacher said probably the most insightful thing I heard at the time. He said that right now, everything is like a snow globe. When you shake up a snow globe, all the little flakes fly around and everything is chaos, but eventually, the flakes settle. That first day back, we were settling into that new normal.
Jaclyn: When I got back to the classroom I was hiding in, it was a weird experience because I had been filled with so much fear and the last time I saw the room, there was glass all over the floor and members of the SWAT team with guns that were big- ger than me. Now, it was as if nothing had happened. The rooms were back to the way they were, and the walls were plastered with posters from schools and communities around the world sending us well wishes.
Daniel: My experience was sort of unique because on the day of the shooting, I wasn’t in my fourth-period class, I was in the auditorium. I have drama class fourth period, so I was in the auditorium working on the sound design for the musical. When we decided as a class that we were still going to do the play, it meant that I had to go right back to doing what I was doing when the shooting happened, but being in the auditorium again allowed me to collect my thoughts. I sat onstage by myself. The curtain was down, and I could hear people sitting in the auditorium. I let it all in.
Kyrah: That first day back, Helena Ramsay’s absence was really hard on me. We were friends since kindergarten. We have a block schedule, so four double periods a day. We call them silver days and burgundy days for our school colors. The silver days were like something I had to get through, like green peas on your plate. The burgundy day was the mashed potatoes and macaroni. That was my day. I had two periods with Helena. I had all my favorite classes that day. I hated trigonometry, but I had trigonometry with Helena, she sat right behind me. Me, Helena, and my friend Carson would literally talk the entire class. The teacher would always crack on us, but she loved us. I also had AP US History with Helena, and we never really sat near each other, but when there was a group project we would sync up like magnets. I loved bothering Helena. It was my favorite thing to do. They switched up the desks in trigonometry, but from that first day back to the last day of school, when I would look behind me, nobody would be there. I could just feel her absence. Even after moving around desks, she was still the only one missing. Everyone else in the class was still there, still coming to school, but Helena was never coming back.
John: The first class I went to was my drama class. I liked going to that class first, because that was my home base before all of this. That was a lot of our home bases in this movement. It was nice going back there, seeing familiar faces, seeing my teachers, and actually settling in before going to all my other classes.
Adam: For me, the first class was AP Psychology. The teacher sat there and looked at us and said, “I am so sorry,” and cried. We had taken a test that day, and she told us not to worry about it. We had a project coming up, and she said not to worry about it. She passed around notecards and asked us to write what we wanted to get out of the class. So we passed in the notecards anonymously. Some kids said they didn’t want to come to school, to do work, to bring their backpacks. Other kids said they want- ed things to go back to normal.
Emma: After fourth period, we went to first period, which for me was personalization [a study hall]. For the rest of the year, they combined all personalization classes and held them in the auditorium, which was where I was during the shooting. I was forced to go there every other day.
Sarah: My second period was originally in the freshman building where it happened, but that day we went to a different classroom; my teacher just talked about what she went through during it, because she was in the building. Something that I noticed is that a lot of my teachers rearranged the desks into a circle, because they thought it was going to be a “talk about your feelings” time, and my teacher stood in the middle of the circle and asked if anyone had anything to say and encouraged us to talk about how we were feeling. It was very emotional, obviously, every single period.
Kevin: Third period was a tough class for me. Three kids in that class weren’t there. One, Carmen Schentrup, had died, one was recovering from gunshots, and another was out because his brother died. The class was AP English Lit, one of the hardest in school, and all the kids in that class have known each other for a really long time. We all had known Carmen for years, and we were all pretty good friends. So there were a lot of empty desks, and that made it hard. The teacher made us do an activity to get us to talk. She gave us a ball of string; we had to say how we were feeling when it was tossed to us. I wasn’t a fan of that, because I don’t like when teachers or other people try to force feelings out of us, especially in that class. That class was really awkward because of the empty desks. We wanted to do something to honor Carmen. We put flowers on her desk, and someone made a poster. But still, it’s just a desk. It’s not the only one she ever sat in, and it’s not like she was only in that seat for that entire year. So I don’t know that it made me feel any better. The next day we came back and rearranged the entire classroom. We tried to forget where her desk would have been, to get the thought out of our minds, because otherwise looking at that desk would bring up memories of who should be there. I used to sit right behind her. The first thing I did was decide I wasn’t sitting in that seat anymore. I didn’t want to deal with that. So I moved seats.
Sofie: I remember getting to fifth period, and knowing that the teacher in that class was the only teacher I had that had a victim currently in their class. Carmen Schentrup was his student. He broke down in front of the whole class. That was really sad. You go to school and see your teachers every day, but you never think about what it’s like to sit in your classroom as your teacher’s crying. It’s not a normal thing. That happened a few times that day.
Alfonso: In sixth period, my math class, I was faced with my very conservative teacher. He had a discussion with a student who was unprepared, somebody who agreed with our viewpoints, but didn’t know enough to back them up. I didn’t want to be angry that day, but that did piss me off.
Alex: I went into my statistics class seventh period, which Carmen Schentrup was a student in. It was such a strange, sad feeling, walking into that classroom and seeing that she wasn’t there. We were all just sharing stories and talking about what had happened. It turned into a celebration and a remembrance of her. It wasn’t about the tragedy, it was about how do we lift everything up, how do we make sure that we can remember Carmen and the other victims.
Jaclyn: Some of my teachers weren’t as gentle as others. Once we started getting back into academics and doing the walkouts, some teachers disagreed with us, or at least what I stood for, which was kind of disheartening. Seeing a teacher who went through that experience with us saying, “What’s the point of a walkout?” And I was like, “Do you know the history of protests in this country?”
Cameron: In one of my last classes of the day, I had a panic attack. I had become a notable figure in the movement, and the first day back was hard for me. It was overwhelming and I felt so anxious. It got into my head that someone had poisoned me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping for air, I was seeing spots. I thought I was going to die. I wound up in the hospital, where they explained to me what was happening. After I calmed down, I immediately thought about getting back to work. I had a movement to run. It’s hard to sit in class and do work that’s unrelated to the movement.
Emma: Each class period was kind of different. Like maybe one was all breakdowns and maybe one was all . . . not fun, but a little easier. A lot of us were saying to ourselves, “I don’t want to cry right now,” and then others thought, “I can’t stop crying right now.” It comes in waves.
Jaclyn: It’ll be hard for the sophomore class next year because they have three years left, but I’m going to be a senior and so I only have one more year left. I’m going to be class president again as well so I’m going to try my best to make all the newcomers feel very welcome because it must be hard to walk into a school that had a shooting last year, so I’m going to try my best to make everyone feel good about going to school here. But it’s going to be hard. Once the freshman class from this year graduates, I think it’s going to be a little easier for people, but for the next couple years, we’re going to have to be very gentle, and nonpolitical and just focus on ourselves and grieving and our counselors. We’re always going to have therapy dogs, which is nice. I love that.
Excerpted from Glimmer of Hope by The March for Our Lives Founders. Copyright © 2018 by The March for Our Lives Founders. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.