On February 14, 2018, I hid inside my classroom for three hours attempting to keep 15 students safe while a gunman terrorized my school. By the time the SWAT team released us, it would become one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. The day in which 17 lives were taken needlessly, senselessly, and horrifically.
Nearly three years later, I can still see Building 12 (also known as the Freshman Building, where the gunman entered) from my same classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I see it every time I open the door. There are others on campus who can avoid it, walking a different way or because their classroom is in a different part of campus. I don’t have that luxury.
There are people who will never experience anything like what we did at MSD, or what my dear friend Abbey Clements and her community did at Sandy Hook. Those people are very fortunate. It’s impossible for me to forget what happened that day. It’s also impossible for me to wrap my head around the idea that people can say it didn’t happen.
Ascending to the U.S. House of Representatives on a truckload of false claims, racist and anti-Semitic ideology, and Trumpian rhetoric, QAnon conspiracist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has made a name for herself as a school shooting denier. She believes that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT was staged. She believes that the shooting at my school was as well, referring to it as a “false flag” event created to gain support for stronger gun control laws. [Editor’s note: Greene has not publicly denied these beliefs, despite reportedly telling a Parkland victim’s mother otherwise on a private call and, most recently, lawmakers in a House GOP conference.] Greene has openly targeted and harassed David Hogg, who survived the events at MSD as a student, is a co-founder of March for Our Lives, and currently attends Harvard University. She has refused to meet with or speak with Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime on February 14, 2018.
.@mtgreenee, is this you harassing @davidhogg111 weeks after the Parkland shooting, that my daughter was killed in & he was in? Calling him a coward for ignoring your insanity. I will answer all of your questions in person. Get ready to record again.pic.twitter.com/aQjL74x7khJanuary 27, 2021
In the weeks immediately following the events at MSD, I began working on a book. I edited and contributed two pieces to Parkland Speaks, which was published by Random House and released in January 2019. I read those stories. I know those voices. How anyone can be so foolish and insensitive to say that what happened that day, what’s contained within the pages of Parkland Speaks, didn’t happen is truly dangerous. The venom Greene spews with each lie hits the survivors and families of gun violence. It’s like opening a wound over and over again.
Greene is not only dangerous to survivors like me, but also to her own colleagues. Before she was elected, Greene indicated support for executing Democratic politicians. Recently, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) had to move her office away from Greene’s out of safety concerns. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now condemning Greene’s “loony lies and conspiracy theories” that are a “cancer for the Republican party and our country” (albeit not directly referring to her by name). Still, there are plenty of GOP lawmakers, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who not only won’t denounce or refute anything she says until pressured to do so, but even put her on committees and elevated her status within Congress. Shame on him. Shame on all of them.
Unsurprisingly, Greene doesn't condemn those who stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. Yet the irony of it all is lawmakers from both sides of the aisle ran to hide in their offices, behind barricaded doors, or in AOC's case, in a bathroom, unsure of who was out there and what they might do. I can relate to these lawmakers, as that’s what I did on February 14, 2018. Every single person who was present in the Capitol that day, with the exception of the insurrectionists themselves, has become a victim of violence—more specifically, gun violence. Greene doesn't see it that way.
It’s easy to dismiss Greene as a simple-minded, ignorant person as she spews her conspiracy theories about staged shootings, Jewish space lasers, and a rigged election, a.k.a. “The Big Lie,” which resulted in a temporary Twitter suspension. Except there are people out there who look to Greene for leadership, guidance, and answers. As a member of Congress, she is given the sobriquet “The Honorable” in front of her name and formal title. There is absolutely nothing honorable about her. Chris Hixon was honorable. Aaron Feis was honorable. Scott Beigel was honorable. Rachel Davino was honorable. Dawn Hochsprung was honorable. Mary Sherlach was honorable.
Gun Violence Survivors Week is February 1-7. It will end one week before the anniversary of the events at MSD. The community is still healing three years later. I see a psychologist once per week and have been diagnosed with PTSD. I become very nervous in a crowded space. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like loud noises. I don’t like fireworks. I don’t sleep well. I go to work at MSD every day because I know that’s what I have to do—for me, for the students, for the community.
I will never be who I was before 2:20 p.m. on February 14, 2018. I am forever changed because of one person’s actions. That’s why I refuse to sit idly by and let Greene continue to speak falsehoods to her constituents and the American public. She needs to be admonished. She needs to be removed from all committee appointments. She needs to resign from Congress. She needs to know that her lies and conspiracies will never take away our lived experience as survivors. The 17 lives we lost will live in our hearts forever.
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Sarah Lerner teaches senior English, Intro to Journalism, and advises Aerie Yearbook at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She is the editor of Parkland Speaks, published by Random House. You can follow her on Twitter.
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