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A survivor of this month's mass shooting at a Florida high school said she can’t understand why some people would accuse her and her classmates of making up the horrors they experienced as part of a gun-control agenda.
“I know today, when people watch this, I will be called a crisis actor, and it’s just unbelievable,” 16-year-old Aalayah Eastmond, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told Megyn Kelly TODAY. “And I still can’t believe that in a moment like this, people would rather put us down than lift us up."
Eastmond was in her Holocaust History class on Feb. 14 when an armed former student stormed her campus and began shooting. When the gunman first shot through the window of her classroom, Eastmond initially thought it was part of a prank.
“It was Valentine’s Day and I thought it was a paintball gun because I saw red on the floor,” she recalled. "But it was blood and it wasn't a prank."
The gunman continued shooting as the students tried to take cover. Eastmond said she felt the bullets fly by her face.
“I immediately thought that he was coming inside so I thought, I told myself I need to look like I was dead as well,” she said.
When the student in front of her was hit by a bullet, she tumbled to the floor with him.
“I just followed his every movement and I fell over with him, and then I put him on top of me, because he was already…” she said, trailing off. “I just told myself I need to look like I’m dead, because I thought he was coming in to get us all one by one.”
Eastmond’s mother, Stacey-Ann Llewellyn, said she would gladly swap places with anyone trying to cast doubt on the stories being shared by her daughter and her classmates. She called Feb. 14 “the worst day of my life” because of terrifying calls she received from her daughter as the shooting took place.
“They should just take my place for that, what, 40 minutes? And that’s not even the parents that lost their kids. I still have mine, but just the fact that she was calling me and saying her last goodbyes, I wish they could walk in my shoes,” Llewellyn said. “There’s nothing fake about this.”
Eastmond, who returns to school on Wednesday, continues to deal with survivor’s guilt. She described how she feared meeting the parents of the boy she used to cover herself during the shooting.
“I thought they were going to be angry with me, but they weren’t. They actually embraced me and they were happy that I survived,” she said.
Mark Eiglarsh, an attorney for Eastmond, said while many of the young survivors appear to be recovering, they face a long journey emotionally as they deal with anger and depression.
“There are a lot of kids who look like they’re doing wonderfully. She looks at times like she’s doing great,” he said, referring to Eastmond. “But no one’s home with them when they’re crying on the pillow and reliving this nightmare. These kids need therapy.”