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Injured Florida shooting survivor recounts scene inside classroom during rampage

Samantha Grady talks about the moments when a gunman opened fire at her Florida school, killing at least 17 people, including her best friend.
/ Source: TODAY

A student injured in a south Florida high school shooting said she used a book to shield herself from the bullets that flew into her classroom, where she and her best friend huddled with classmates behind furniture.

Junior Samantha Grady said she was working on an assignment about the Holocaust when she heard two shots in the hallway. Her best friend pushed her down, and the two then ran toward a big bookshelf.

“We all kind of huddled there together," she said. "We all clamped really close, tightly together."

Grady was among those injured Wednesday when police say a 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle on the campus, killing at least 17 people, including Grady’s best friend.

Grady fought back tears on TODAY, telling Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, "she didn't make it."

The shooting took place shortly before classes let out for the day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a suburb northwest of Fort Lauderdale. The suspect, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from the school, slipped away into a neighboring community where he was later arrested and booked for murder.

Grady said her classroom door was locked but the gunman shot through the glass.

“He shot quite a few bullets into the glass and it hit quite a few students behind me,” she said.

Grady said her best friend yelled at her to grab a book to shield herself.

“We were already situated by the book shelf. She was like, ‘Grab a book, grab a book,’ and so I took a book. It was a tiny book, but I took a book and I held it up. I believe, maybe, the book kind of deterred some of the bullets, so it didn’t hit me so badly,” she said. “She was the one who gave me the idea. She definitely helped me a lot.”

Grady said after she fled the school she hid behind a truck and tried to calm herself down before calling her parents “because I didn’t want them to go crazy.” She was treated by paramedics and eventually called her parents while inside an ambulance headed to the hospital, where she connected with her family.

“My dad was really worried. It was etched all over his face. And my mom, she was bawling. As you can imagine, it was pretty scary for both of them,” she said.

At the hospital, Grady said she was advised to talk about the shooting as much as possible “so it can get out of your brain.” She described details to her family and anyone who has asked.

“So whenever the opportunity came, whenever someone asked, I freely talked about it," she said. "Because I don’t want nightmares."

Freshman Brandon Carrasco was in the hallway when he and others heard the gunshots.

“We weren’t sure what it was," he told TODAY's Megyn Kelly. "We thought it was maybe some drums, or the band or something."

“When I heard the shooter just going off, and we were all in the hallway running away, that was the only time I was panicking," he said. "But in the classroom, we locked the door, I was trying to keep my calm.”

He said he urged his peers to stay calm and quiet, and told them to silence their phones and text their parents. Everyone finally learned it was safe to leave once they heard SWAT members directing everyone to the exits.

Carrasco said he saw numerous bodies around him on the floor as he left the classroom.

Outside, he did his best to continue to calm other students down and reassure them until he spotted his father.

“We just hugged and he gave me a kiss on the forehead," he said.