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To Move Forward, Parkland Shooting Survivor Leaves Marjory Stoneman Douglas


And, finally, today, even as we've learned of yet another deadly mass shooting in our country, this time in Illinois, we are still remembering the tragedy in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen students and staff members were killed and another 17 were wounded one year ago. Annabel Claprood was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School then. She survived the events of last February 14 but struggles to overcome the trauma. Jessica Bakeman of member station WLRN spent time with Annabel over the last year and brings us her journey through the seasons.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Chapter 1 - Winter.


JAKE TAPPER: I want to bring in Annabel Quinn Claprood. She's a sophomore. She was in the building while the shooting occurred, and she has a question for you.

JESSICA BAKEMAN, BYLINE: One week after 17 people died at her high school, Annabel Claprood told the whole country she wouldn't go back until it was safe.


ANNABEL CLAPROOD: Will my school campus is safe when I return? Because I plan to not return until I know that something is going to change.


A. CLAPROOD: And I'm not the only one.



BAKEMAN: She was talking to Congressman Ted Deutch during the CNN Town Hall on February 21, last year. A few days later, Annabel asked Florida state lawmakers the same question after she and others rode seven hours on a bus to Tallahassee to lobby at the state capitol.


A. CLAPROOD: My name's Annabel Claprood.

BAKEMAN: Annabel - she goes by Annie - spoke at a committee meeting about a school safety and gun control bill lawmakers were considering.


A. CLAPROOD: And the one thing that I definitely don't want to be returning to school is having my teacher have a gun.

BAKEMAN: Later, she told them what happened to her.


A. CLAPROOD: Twelve days ago, 18 hours and 56 minutes ago, I was on the floor scared for my life because someone walked into my school with an automatic weapon. Someone my age shouldn't have seen what I've seen. I shouldn't have had to step over my friends to leave the building.

BAKEMAN: The bill approved by the Florida legislature let some school staff carry guns but teachers not yet. The day after her testimony, Annie was on a bus headed home. At the same time, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was starting classes again.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Chapter 2 - Spring.

BAKEMAN: Nothing the adults did could convince Annabel she was safe at school. She wasn't satisfied with the security presence she saw on campus, even though the superintendent said they more than tripled the number of guards. Annie took a video with her phone at school and sent it to her mom.


A. CLAPROOD: Well, I'm leaving class five minutes early just to show that just because it's dismissal, there is absolutely nobody guarding this area right here.

BAKEMAN: Annie shows the main courtyard on campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas - empty. Annie ended up staying home a lot during the second half of last school year.

A. CLAPROOD: Going into school, I would've never thought where could I hide when I stand here, you know? Like, and it's now - like, I have to know where I'm going to go because, in this world, the adults are not protecting us.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Chapter 3 - Summer.


A. CLAPROOD: Good morning. This is the office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz office. How may I help you?

BAKEMAN: Annie did an internship with her congresswoman between her sophomore and junior years.

A. CLAPROOD: OK. Just give me one second. I'm going to put you on hold.

BAKEMAN: She was inspired by that lobbying trip to the Florida Capitol back in late February.

A. CLAPROOD: Sometimes, some people need a little push, and I think that I can give that to them. I definitely want to go back to Tallahassee. That's not a question (laughter).


BAKEMAN: Annie has another new interest since the shooting at her high school.


BAKEMAN: Horses.


A. CLAPROOD: You spit in my face.

BAKEMAN: I met her at a barn in Parkland, where she was volunteering over the summer. It was a scorching day, and Annie was trying to get the horses out of the sun and into their stalls. She struggled to fasten a halter around a horse's neck.

A. CLAPROOD: Ow, I just punched myself. It's - this is the problem. Because I'm short...


A. CLAPROOD: ...It makes it really hard for me to reach over their heads. I did it.

BAKEMAN: Spending time with horses made Annie feel peaceful and happy. She thought it would help her keep going back to Stoneman Douglas.

A. CLAPROOD: I definitely think that it'll relieve some stress from going there.



A. CLAPROOD: At the beginning of this school year, Stoneman Douglas had a big problem. The fire alarm kept going off, and it was reminding survivors of last February 14.

A. CLAPROOD: When I hear the fire alarms, I feel like I'm in the 1200 building again, and it's happening all over again.

BAKEMAN: The shooter's gunfire set off the alarms in that building. That sent students into the hallway toward danger when they should have been sheltered inside classrooms. The alarm has gone off, unexpectedly, more than a half-dozen times this school year.

A. CLAPROOD: I completely hyperventilated and had a complete panic attack in the middle of class. Then, they took me down to the wellness center, and I walked into a room full of kids that had the exact same thing.

BAKEMAN: The school's wellness center is a place where students can go to see therapists if they're struggling. Annie said in September, about six weeks after school started up again, she couldn't imagine getting the same kind of support or understanding anywhere else.

A. CLAPROOD: I don't know. I don't feel like giving up. And I feel like leaving the school is a way of giving up because you don't want to fight. And I think it's worth fighting for.

BAKEMAN: Annabel's mom, Elyse Claprood, wasn't so positive. Every day, when her daughter went to school...

ELYSE CLAPROOD: You're terrified because you don't know what's going to happen to them that day, and you don't know if you're going to see them again, every day.

BAKEMAN: How do you cope with that?

E. CLAPROOD: I have a tracking device on her (laughter).

A. CLAPROOD: Oh, Mother.

BAKEMAN: You mean in her phone?



UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Chapter five - Winter, again.

BAKEMAN: Last December, a Florida commission investigating the shooting voted for a polarizing recommendation - let teachers carry guns. This changed everything for Annabel Claprood. Remember what she told lawmakers earlier.


A. CLAPROOD: The one thing that I definitely don't want to be returning to school is having my teacher have a gun.

BAKEMAN: When Annabel heard that Florida teachers might soon be armed, she walked into her mom's room late one night and said I'm not going back.

A. CLAPROOD: I'm leaving there because I just don't feel safe.

BAKEMAN: A few weeks ago, Annabel withdrew from Marjory Stoneman Douglas. And it's not just the school where she feels that fear.

A. CLAPROOD: I feel it everywhere. That's where my mind goes the minute I walk into a new place because I've learned the world is not a nice place. And I have to learn how to deal with it.

BAKEMAN: Recently, Annie started at a small private school, where the classes are mostly online. She has a friend there who also left Stoneman Douglas. The new school is near a hospital.

A. CLAPROOD: There are a lot of sirens going by. I was alone with a girl who went to Douglas, and she saw me, like, looking at them. She's like, it bothers you to, right? Like, it's just that kind of stuff I know that she understands. So I just feel better there.

BAKEMAN: Better but not like before.

A. CLAPROOD: Annabel from a year ago is still in the 1200 building, and she's not going to come out. After that, I just - (crying) I wasn't Annabel anymore, and I needed to find myself again. So I took that summer, and I took the time to really build myself again and really be a new person. It's forced me to grow up, and it taught me to be strong. It tore me down, and I had to build myself up.

BAKEMAN: Annabel Claprood spent the anniversary of the shooting on Thursday reading to elementary school students with a Stoneman Douglas librarian and the school's own therapy dog, River. Then, like a lot of other survivors here, she and her mom left to visit family out of town.

For NPR News, I'm Jessica Bakeman in Coral Springs, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.