A Student Take: David Hogg
In the week leading up to the March For Our Lives, we teamed up with student journalists Pedro Damasceno and David Morales from Pine Crest Upper School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to share the stories they recorded from the students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. In a society that often ignores its youth, we are here to amplify the students’ point of view. Interviewed below is David Hogg, a survivor and activist from MSD High School.
Pedro Damasceno: Tell me about yourself. Who are you outside of your role as an activist?
David Hogg: Not brave, to be honest. I’ve had to put on a brave face so other people can get out and speak. It’s hard to keep it on, considering the number of people who didn’t make it. But I have to keep it up, especially for those who can’t. I didn’t know anyone personally, but I feel a connection to them either way. My sister had three friends that died, and the fact that she was crying so much in days following the tragedy to the point that she couldn’t speak is a testament to what state this country is in. We need to change, and for that to happen people need to get out and vote.
PD: What are you involved in at Marjory Stoneman Douglas?
DH: Everything! Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a fantastic place. The programs are incredible, and there are so many things you can get involved with. I’m part of the Astronomy Club, the Speech and Debate Club, TV club, Marjory’s Garden, etc… I used to be a member of the Politics Club, but I got tired of the political divisions and I could not attend the meetings on the scheduled days. I am so sick of the divisions in this country that are allowing children to die. Every time an incident like this occurs, politicians stick to the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” which is not enough.
PD: I think right now we’re so wrapped up in the division between left and right that we forget about the ethics behind it.
DH: Yes, George Washington mentioned something like that in his farewell address. He said that he was terrified that division between political parties would make us weaker. And it has. It has resulted in the death of our future in the form of children. We need to come together not as Republicans and Democrats but as Americans.
PD: As humans!
DH: Yes, as humans. We have to come together for the lives of our children.
PD: Tell me about your experience on Valentine’s Day.
DH: It all started at 2:30 in the afternoon when a gunshot echoed through the hallways. We were able to hear it because our door was open, so we immediately told our teacher that we may have heard something and that we should close the door. My AP Environmental Science teacher promptly shut the door, but just as she was doing so, the fire alarm went off. In hindsight, instinctually and stupidly, we got up and started slowly walking out of the classroom. I was actually one of the last people out because I thought that this was just another fire drill, but little did I realize that this would be anything but a drill, this would be life or death.
My room was about 250 feet away from where I heard the first gunshot, so my classmates and I had to get down to the first floor to evacuate. While we were walking down, a flood of people started running in the opposite direction telling us that the shooter was coming our way. We didn’t know what was going on, so we just decided to follow the herd. Little did we know at the time, we were actually running in the direction of the active shooter. Luckily, a janitor stopped us and told us not to go that way. I don’t know his name, but whoever he is, he’s a hero. The second that he was saying that, Ashley Kirth, a culinary teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, opened her door and was able to fit another 65 students in her classroom, saving every one of our lives, and for that I’m grateful. While we were in there, I still didn’t know if it was a drill or not, even though I could hear the gunshots throughout the hallways and the rushed footsteps of fleeing children. The school had been telling us for months about how we would have an active shooter or “code red” drill, so I thought that they could’ve been firing blanks. We started looking at the headlines and realized that this was not a drill, and it was just a terrible situation.
PD: What was the first thing you thought about after realizing that it was not a drill?
DH: The first thing I thought about was how I could prevent this from ever happening again and then I thought about my sister and where she was. She called me to make sure that I was okay. She was hiding behind the set at the back of the TV production studio along with 40 other students. I’m so grateful that she was able to make it back there, as sadly three of her other friends died, and she hasn’t stopped crying ever since. As a journalist, I immediately took out my camera and began recording people’s emotions and asked them how they felt. I asked them what they thought was going on and what they thought Congress should do so that if we died and our souls were left behind, our voices could still carry on.
PD: I can imagine that being in a situation like that was heart-wrenching.
DH: It was heart-wrenching, but I actually got calm. When I’m under pressure, I get in the zone and focus. I’m able to hear everything around me and just be situationally aware, which I think helped save my life. My father is a former FBI agent, and that helped my sister and I survive, as he taught us how to stay calm.
PD: How did you communicate with your parents?
DH: I called my father and told him that there was an active shooter at the school. I told him that Lauren (my sister) and I were okay and that I loved him. I had to make it quick because my phone was at 7 percent battery and I needed to record these interviews. I knew that I just had to tell this story and that if I was going to die, I was going to tell a damn good story that this country needs to hear.
PD: How has your sister been feeling?
DH: Awful. Just mortified. She has been crying non-stop, and today was the first time she was able to talk without breaking down into tears. It’s horrifying, and the fact that politicians around this country will not do anything about it or even acknowledge the facts is extremely hypocritical and destructive to this country’s nature. If you’re willing to send your thoughts and prayers, but not do anything about it, what are you doing? You’re lying.
PD: How did you and your community react after the incident?
DH: The first thing I did was go home. I still hadn’t found my sister, but I had to head home and get the videos to my editor at the Sun-Sentinel. I waited for my parents to come home. My mom was working at the school where she teaches, so when she heard the news on CNN she was mortified. But once I got back home after picking up my sister, the first thing I did was grab my go bag that I keep as a photojournalist, and get out there to record what was going on. I went out there at six, rode my bike three miles as fast as I could, got there and started recording. Later that night I was on national news. I was on Fox, and really any outlet that was willing to let me speak. So I spoke to them I hope people had a chance to hear what I had to say.
PD: That’s actually how I heard about you and recognized you when I saw you here. How do you think the community came together?
DH: They haven’t yet overcome the grief, but they are using it as a motivation to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children, as our politicians certainly won’t.
PD: How do you think you move forward now?
DH: I was less active. I should’ve gone out and should’ve been campaigning. I stupidly said that I thought this would never happen to me, and as a result I didn’t take action. If this country continues to do that, so many children are going to be affected by mass shootings.
PD: What should other students do to prevent this from happening again?
DH: Get out and vote. Get out and register. Call you congressmen and speak your mind. Tell your congressman that they have to listen to you, because if they don’t children’s lives will be lost. Politicians do not care. If they did they would take action and make compromise. For example, after Sandy Hook, gun regulations weakened. They made it easier for people to get guns. This just comes to show how fucked up the situation is in this country.
PD: What about students that are not old enough to vote? What should they do?
DH: Work on campaigns! Don’t forget about this! Honest to God. This is something that can and will effect us in the future. Stand up right now and say no. Our kids are our future and it’s extremely important that they stand up and let the politicians know that they’re unhappy. Blood is being spilled on American classroom floors as a product of political greed, distrust, and a lack of action.
PD: What can people outside of Parkland do? What support is missing?
DH: People just need to come together. The tragedy happened on Valentine’s Day, where my classmates were receiving flowers from other students in a demonstration of love. We have to come together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We aren’t going to get through it by arguing, but by pointing out the problem as it is, and agreeing that it’s not ok. If politicians don’t take action, God knows how many more children will die.
PD: I think we’re so numb to it right now. The shooting happened just four days ago. We hear of shootings in the news from time to time, but it hasn’t yet hit me that it’s Douglas. It’s Broward County. It’s right next to home.
DH: It’s the same for me! As a journalist, I’m slightly detached. I have to put on a brave face and say that it isn’t ok. I didn’t know anybody that passed away in the shooting personally, but I’ve seen those people. It’s honestly mortifying. The people I’m closest to survived. But the community that I care about—all the students at Douglas—lost 17 of its members. I have to put on this brave face for those who can’t. That’s why I’m doing all that I am right now. Because if I don’t, nobody else will.
PD: How do you feel going back to school?
DH: I feel mortified. I’m going to feel absolutely sick if I go back to school and there’s not a single piece of legislation passed by the time I get back. Politicians need to work together on this, get their shit together, stop taking money from special interest groups, and take action for the lives of American children.
Featured image courtesy of Pedro Damasceno
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