South Florida

Her grandpa once hid in a closet to escape a mass murderer. This week, she did too.

Carly Novell, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survived a mass shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, by hiding in a closet with 18 of her classmates in Parkland, Florida. In 1949, her grandfather Charles Cohen, who was 12 at the time, did the same thing while his entire family was murdered.
Carly Novell, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survived a mass shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, by hiding in a closet with 18 of her classmates in Parkland, Florida. In 1949, her grandfather Charles Cohen, who was 12 at the time, did the same thing while his entire family was murdered.

As Carly Novell concealed herself inside her school newspaper’s closet at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, it was not just terrifying — it was also hauntingly familiar.

A mass shooter was roaming the hallways, and panicked students were stuffing themselves into tiny spaces to evade him.

History was repeating itself.

“This is my grandpa. When he was 12 years old, he hid in a closet while his family was murdered during the first mass shooting in America,” Novell wrote on Twitter. “Almost 70 years later, I also hid in a closet from a murderer. These events shouldn’t be repetitive. Something has to change. #douglasstrong.”

Fortunately, Novell made it home safely. However, 14 of her school mates and three faculty members didn’t. They died when Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former Douglas High student, shot up seven classrooms with an AR-15.

“We were all squished together in the closet and I was comforting my friends while they were having panic attacks. I didn’t know when I would get out. I just knew that I had to survive and I had to make sure everyone was OK,” Novell told the Huffington Post.

The shooting that Novell’s grandfather, Charles Cohen, survived happened on Sept. 6, 1949, when 28-year-old Howard Unruh murdered 13 people and wounded three in a 20-minute rampage in Camden, New Jersey. Unruh was ultimately hauled off by police after a dangerous firefight.

Cohen hid in the closet, like his mother told him to. That day, she, along with Cohen’s father and grandmother, were killed.

“This keeps happening over and over again,” Novell told CNN. “It started all the way back in 1949. And nothing has really changed because the gun laws haven’t.”

Since her tweet, Novell has done several interviews with major outlets, speaking out against current gun laws. So when a Fox political commentator, Tomi Lahren, tweeted about the issue on social media, Novell was quick to comment herself.

“Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting,” Lahren said in her Twitter post.

Novell’s response: “It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt,” Novell wrote. “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.”

Since the shooting, Novell has been active on social media, thanking police officers for their service, retweeting interviews of teachers who saved the lives of students and posting a video of kids being escorted from the school by military personnel with their hands in the air.

Monique O. Madan: 305-376-2108, @MoniqueOMadan

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