Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

Don’t listen to the pundits on mass shootings. Listen to the survivors, families, and victims

Over the past five years, I’ve written thousands of words about the scourge of gun violence in America. I was in Las Vegas and interviewed survivors the night of the worst mass shooting in modern American history. But two days after yet another massacre of innocents — this time in a high school in Parkland, Florida — it’s a good moment for those of us for whom gun violence is an abstraction to stand back, be silent, and instead listen to those who’ve experienced first-hand the terrifying and heartbreaking reality of America’s sick gun culture.

“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.”

A text message from Sarah Crescitelli to her parents as the Parkland school shooting was happening.

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“daddy is in response”

“he just called 911 they are on their way”

“I am so scared kaitlin”

“tell them I love them so much”

— A text conversation between Hannah Carbocci, who was inside the school during the shooting, and her sister Kaitlin

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“I cannot stop hearing the sound of the gun as he walked down my hallway. I cannot unsee my classmates who were shot get carried out by police. I cannot unsee the bodies on the floor. Please keep in mind the horror of what we’ve gone through today. #prayfordouglas”

Morgan Williams, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting.

“Today I woke up excited to go to school in my cute dress and celebrate Valentine’s Day with my friends. Today I came home nearly terrified and worried about the people I care about the most. Nobody should have to go through that.”

Lyliah Taylor, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting.

“In the morning, sometimes things get so crazy, she runs out behind and she’s like ‘I gotta go Dad, bye.’ And I don’t always get to say, ‘I love you.’ I don’t remember if I said that to Jamie yesterday morning.”

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Fred Guttenbeg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was killed on Wednesday.

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it feels. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

Carly Novell, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting, responding to a tweet from conservative commentator Tomi Lahren chastising “the left” for pushing “their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda.” Ironically, Novell’s grandfather survived one of the country’s first mass shootings nearly 70 years ago.

“People in the government need to understand that we are not to be bought by the NRA. They’re not supposed to be listening to the NRA about our protection. They’re supposed to be listening to the people who are getting hurt, about our protection. We’re the ones who deserve to be kept safe because we were literally shot at.”

Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting

“This shouldn’t be a fight between two different parties. This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong and even if we disagree on the way to fix it we all just need to talk about it and stop being angry and stop slandering other people because that doesn’t help anyone and that’s why people die.”

— Isabelle Robinson, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting.

“I don’t want your condolences (expletive deleted) my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But Gun control will prevent it from happening again.” Sarah, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting, responding to a tweet from President Trump offering “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims.”

“He really needs to take into consideration gun control. There’s no reason that a kid, 19 years old that’s been investigated already, and not even a year ago, being able to purchase an AR-15.”

— Isabella Gomez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting, when asked what she would say to President Trump.

“A crazy person just walks right into the school, knocks down the window of my child’s door and starts shooting. Shooting her and killing her. President Trump, you say, ‘what can you do?’ You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands . . . You can do a lot.”

— Lori Aldaheff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed on Wednesday.

“We could not have been more prepared for this situation, which is what makes it so frustrating. We did everything that we were supposed to do . . . and still to have so many casualties . . . it’s very emotional. . . . I feel like today our government, our country has failed us, and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.”

— Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting.

“Everything I’ve heard where we can’t do anything and this is just out of our hands, it’s inevitable. I think that’s a façade that the GOP is putting up. I think that’s what they want us to think. I think that after every shooting the NRA sends them a memo saying send your thoughts and prayers, say let’s not talk about it now, say this happens. This is the only country where this kind of thing happens.”

Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting.

“Some of our policymakers . . . need to look in the mirror and take some action . . . We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”

David Hogg, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting.

Don’t listen to the pundits on this one. Listen to the children, the teachers, the survivors, and the families of those who were killed on Wednesday — and get something done.

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Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.