One of the teens who survived the recent Parkdale shooting took to social media to share her family’s history of surviving mass shootings.
During the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and bystanders, Carly Novell survived by hiding in a closet in her newspaper’s office. One day later, Novell shared a tweet calling on politicians to change the rules surrounding gun ownership. “This is my grandpa,” the February 15th tweet read. “When he was 12 years old, he hid in a closet while his family was murdered during the first mass shooting in America. Almost 70 years later, I also hid in a closet from a murderer. These events shouldn’t be repetitive. Something has to change.”
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Novell’s grandfather, Charles Cohen, was a survivor of the “Walk of Death,” a 1949 incident where shooter Howard Unruh killed thirteen and injured three. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Novell spoke out about her grandfather’s story: “His mom told him to hide in the closet while they stayed in the room,” she told HuffPost. “My grandpa heard everything.” The rest of Cohen’s family was killed in Unruh’s attack.
70 years later, Novell’s own experience eerily parallels her grandfather’s. “We were all squished together in the closet and I was comforting my friends while they were having panic attacks,” she told HuffPost. “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.” She added, “I didn’t have to hear anything. But I still felt it all.”
Novell has been extremely active on social media since the shooting, tweeting about the importance of gun control. When conservative commentator Tomi Lahren tweeted that the Parkland shooting wasn’t about guns and that the Left was using it to advance an “anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda,” Novell shot back, “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.”
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Novell has become part of a coalition of teen survivors who want to change the rules surrounding gun ownership. These 17 and 18-year-olds have been meeting with lawmakers and organized a march on the state’s Capitol on February 21st to protest gun laws. Furious with what they see as non-answers from President Trump on the issue of gun control, the students have two priorities: making it difficult to buy semi-automatic weapons and tightening up the background checks on gun buyers. “I know that there are different perspectives on this issue, and of course this is a big, radical issue with so many different people saying what they want,” 18-year-old Diego Pfeiffer, a student at the march, told the Associated Press. “But what we want is children’s lives.”
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Novell believes that, despite politicians’ reluctance to change gun laws, the group of teens will be able to make a difference. “I think that we won’t stop until something changes,” she said, in her CNN Newsroom interview. “And I don’t know how long that will be, but personally I’m not gonna stop talking about this. I can’t just sit here and keep watching these things happening in my country with no change.” While she conceded that past outrage over school shootings generally evaporated within weeks, she added, “I think the students won’t let that happen.”
In the wake of the Parkdale shooting, Novell has struggled both with feeling “numb” and “feeling everything at once.” She told HuffPost that she wishes she had been able to speak to her grandfather after the shooting because she believes they would “share something really important.” But she also said that she has been “coping” by talking and raising awareness about gun control. “We don’t want higher fences and metal detectors,” she said, in a tweet on February 17th. “We don’t want our teachers to have guns. We don’t want to go to school in a prison. We want CHANGE. We want genuine, lasting change.”
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