At least the students had their cellphones.
As the tragic school shooting played out Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, students grabbed the one tool that could help them communicate with the outside world.
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As young people huddled in fear inside closets and locked-down classrooms, they were able to text family and loved ones about their welfare.
They also could send out messages on social media. Commenters were able to give updates to those barricaded in and terrified.
“I’m at a school shooting right now,” posted a Twitter user with the handle @TheCaptainAidan.
It was the freshman’s first post about the nightmare that was about to unfold. He was in a classroom, where he said he ran for safety after hearing “3 to 4 pops,” he told the Miami Herald.
“Stay safe and stay hidden, Aidan! We’re all pulling for you, kiddo. You’re gonna be okay. Law enforcement is on the scene,” responded a follower.
“I’m f---ing scared right now,” came his next post.
The next tweet showed that he was on the floor taking his picture, with empty chairs in front of him. You can see one of his sneakers.
“Still locked in. I checked the local news and there is 20 victims,” Aidan captioned the snap. “Long live Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.”
And at last, relief.
Aidan’s final photo showed the young man was free and safe.
“We have been liberated. God bless, America.”
After his nightmare was over, Aidan told the Miami Herald what had transpired: He was almost done with his math test when he heard a series of pops. He thought it was kids popping chip bags in the cafeteria “or something dumb like that,” but then a friend came running to the classroom, banging on the door.
The fire alarm went off and everyone was herded to the same side of the room as the door, so they weren’t visible. A teacher flicked the lights off, and everyone waited.
“We thought maybe it was firecrackers,” said the 14-year-old.
“Until we heard screaming and people, not falling, but crashing when they were barricading the door. We knew it wasn’t a joke anymore.”
Eventually, Aidan said, the SWAT team busted in and led them to safety in a single-file line, with their hands on each other’s backs.
In the wake of the tragedy, the student’s group chat is no longer normal teenage-boy banter, he says: “We’re asking who’s there and who’s safe,” and swapping names of victims.