Tens of thousands of people locked onto Aidan’s feed for the next 86 minutes, where he posted messages from the linoleum floor of his classroom, amid a forest of metal desk legs.
When the carnage ended, Aidan, and other teenagers who survived the attack, faced the cold lens of news cameras, not knowing the fate of all their friends and teachers, but they were sure about one thing.
Solutions must be found to tackle US gun violence crisis. “How are we allowed to buy guns at the age of 18 or 19? That’s something we shouldn’t be able to do,” Lyliah Skinner, who survived the shooting, told CNN.
“We’re children,” David Hogg, a 17-year-old survivor, said. “You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together. Come over your politics and get something done.”
Amid the ritual cycle of despair of congressional inaction on gun violence, these powerful young voices have increased the pressure on politicians only offering “thoughts and prayers”.
There is talk of the post-Columbine generation.
These Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students were all born shortly after the 1999 shooting at Columbine high school in Colorado – which is no longer in the top 10 most fatal mass shootings in the US. They’ve lived through active-shooter drills at school and have seen the introduction of bullet-proof backpacks in child-friendly bright colors and funky patterns. They have instant access on the internet to the brutal facts and footage of mass shootings in the US – the five most deadly of which took place in the 10-year period from 2007 to 2017.
They have also seen lawmakers fail to stop this from happening even after 192 people and five perpetrators were killed in those five shootings at a music festival, nightclub, church, university and elementary school.
At a federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday afternoon, Stoneman Douglas students took the stage at an anti-gun rally.
Teenager Emma Gonzalez delivered an impassioned speech, holding back tears and challenging the argument that something other than stricter gun laws could have prevented the attack.
“We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue,” said Gonzalez. “He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife.”
The failure of US gun laws was obvious when it emerged on Friday that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who was named as the gunman and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, had legally bought the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and ammunition used in the shooting at a tactical supply store in Coral Springs after passing a background check. The FBI also admitted on Friday it failed to investigate a specific report in January that Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas student, could be plotting a school shooting.
And in the 48 hours following Cruz’s arrest on Wednesday, schools across the country cancelled class in response to copycat threats. Some students were arrested on suspicion of planning to carry out attacks.