A day after a gunman killed 17 people at a North Broward high school, a student who attends the schools woke up determined to tell her story — and to set the record straight following a tweet from President Donald Trump that seemed to place blame on those who stayed silent about suspicions they had about accused gunman Nikolas Cruz.
Thursday morning, Trump tweeted: “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
Olivia Prochilo, a 16-year-old junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, rejected any implication that others besides Cruz shared blame.
Cruz “was not all there, and we know that, but it’s not our fault. We did not think anyone was capable of doing something like this. Like President Trump is tweeting... that if you hear something, say something. But no one, us kids, would ever think someone would be capable of doing this,” Prochilo said. “It is no one’s fault but his [Cruz’]. We had no idea that a kid, a 19-year-old kid, would be capable of taking a rifle and taking 17 lives.”
Cruz, who was arrested on murder and attempted murder charges, is believed to have used a semi-automatic weapon during his rampage at the school, located in the Broward County suburb of Parkland.
Although access to the school grounds were blocked off Thursday, several students showed up at a press conference nearby, some still in shock about what happened less than 24 hours earlier.
Prochilo, who was at the school Wednesday but escaped unharmed, described to reporters what the hours before gunfire rang out looked and felt like. It was Valentine’s Day, and students were exchanging chocolate and flowers, she said.
Just before dismissal, police say, Cruz shot his way onto campus. He gunned down a dozen people inside buildings on the school’s sprawling campus, two more on the grounds, and one more on Pine Island Road as he fled. Two more died at the hospital. Many underwent surgery at Broward Health hospitals.
Prochilo said the shooter was “not all there,” noting he often posted photos of weaponry on Instagram and that he once kicked out his friend’s car window because he was mad.
Acknowledging that the warning signs were there, Prochilo bristled at the statements Trump made on Twitter on Thursday stressing the “See something, say something” policy law enforcement has preached in the aftermath of the shooting.
Prochilo also took time to condemn Cruz.
“I hope he never feels the sun on his face again after taking innocent children's’ lives and making families’ lives ruined,” Prochilo said. “For the rest of their life, they’ll always have that hole in their heart, losing a child, because one kid woke up one morning and said ‘I hate my life, I wanna make someone else’s life ruined.’”
Despite her anger and heartbreak, Prochilo said she would not hold a “grudge against the world.”
“It happened, it’s horrible, and now we really need to make change because there’s too many school shootings in the U.S. and there’s too many people, innocent people, getting their lives taken away for no reason.”