A Student Take: Shay McKinde
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 Shay McKinde, a survivor and activist from MSD High School.
Pedro Damasceno: Less than 24 hours ago, first responders entered your high school in response to an active shooter. Shay, how do you feel?
Shay McKinde: Honestly, I don’t know what to feel. I don’t know whether I should feel sad, or angry, or lost. It’s a mix of emotions. You see this on TV from time to time, and all you can do is pray that it doesn’t happen. But then it does, and you end up losing someone. The experience alone traumatizes you.
PD: Right now, I don’t know what to feel. We’re used to hearing about it, but I haven’t yet registered that it happened right here.
SM: I had to endure the loss of a friend that I could’ve saved by reaching out just a little bit more.
PD: Who are you?
SM: Shay McKinde, I’m a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
PD: At what moment did you realize that something was happening? When was it no longer a regular school day?
SM: It wasn’t so regular in the morning. We had a fire alarm without being warned. Later in the day, I was in the freshman building, and we heard something like banging going on in the staircase. It wasn’t really the sound of gunshots, it was just continual banging. You wouldn’t suspect it to be a gun. Shortly after that, the fire alarm rings again—my classmates thought it was strange because we had already had a fire drill in the morning.
PD: That doesn’t happen often?
SM: Never. It’s weird. How could there be two fire drills in one day? We already practiced this.
PD: What happened next?
SM: During a standard fire drill, we have to leave class and go to the field. My class started leaving the room and about five seconds in, another teacher tells us to go another way. Out of nowhere, kids began to run. As soon as they start running, we hear gunshots: BANG BANG! I hear the first six, and I’m gone. I go into survival mode. I’m trying to push everybody into classrooms. As many as could. I ended up getting back to my class and I pushed two people inside. I noticed my friend, Joaquin [Oliver], running at the end of the hallway. I didn’t see the shooter. A bullet flew, and my friend dropped. I saw his lifeless body falling. I couldn’t grab him—he was gone in an instant. I saw him fall behind me and there was nothing I could do. I had to take action and take cover. The shooter walked by my classroom but didn’t come in. There’s really nothing that was stopping him from reaching through the broken window and killing us all. I haven’t been able to eat or sleep since.
PD: When you saw this happen were you already in the classroom?
SM: I was in the hallway at first when everybody was running. I was able to get some kids into the classroom, and then I followed them in. Joaquin had gone to the bathroom right before all of this happened and he followed right behind me. I tried to get him, but I missed him.
PD: You saved so many lives by pushing students into classrooms!
SM: I couldn’t just look at myself. Surviving had to be a group effort. It’s easy for everybody to start panicking, but that’s what gets you killed. We had to get composed. We had to get organized. Panicking is the reason that more people died in the Vegas shooting. It creates a massive, directionless crowd. It’s about being smart and looking out for each other.
PD: What you did was heroic, and yet, you’re able to speak about it in a composed way a day after everything happened. What are you doing to cope?
SM: I don’t see myself as a hero. My friends tell me I’m a hero, but I couldn’t touch Guac [Joaquin Oliver]. He slipped through my fingers. That one extra second. If I only had that one extra second. He’s looking down on me instead of directly at me, so I’ll do everything that I can in his memory.
PD: Joaquin would appreciate you thinking about him. You touched several lives.
SM: And I’m thankful that I could stop some people from being killed. I wouldn’t call myself a hero, but I’m grateful God gave me the strength to be able to help those that I could and prevent them from falling to the same unfortunate fate.
PD: You’re here now, sharing your story.
SM: I couldn’t wish this on anybody. If you see your classroom’s window break and you see a shooter reaching for the handle, visualizing you and your classmates dying, you break down. It will rock your core no matter who you are or what you hold. You can be a football player, engineer, soldier, or the richest man in the world, but it won’t matter. When you’re in that situation, you can’t contain yourself. It causes instant trauma. Nobody will forget the shooter’s stare.
PD: What do you think happened? What stopped him from reaching through?
SM: The only thing I can imagine was that he was randomly shooting. We saw blood come through the door sill, but his hand didn’t come through. Thank God he didn’t. It’s crazy to say now: I’m a school shooting survivor.
PD: How are your friends reacting?
SM: Nobody will be normal after this. Whoever you are, you’ll think differently. It’s been such an impacting experience. In one second you would have lost your life, but in the other second, you’re alive. We’re here, celebrating our lives while commemorating those lives that we lost.
PD: Nobody can forget about this and, naturally, we can’t brush it under the table. However, I think the way we get past this is by doing our best to return to normalcy. Back to your schedule. Learn from the tragedy, learn about how fortunate we are to live, learn to be alert, but move on.
SM: This is not an event that people would have foretold. This tragedy can happen at any time. Leave grudges behind and don’t harbor hatred in your heart because you never know what’s going to happen. I didn’t expect Joaquin to go. This is unbelievable.
PD: People have been reaching out to me from France and New York, the whole world is noticing what happened. You are at the epicenter of what happened, and you reacted in a way that saved many lives. From Mahatma Gandhi to the firefighters in the 9/11 towers, those people saved lives, too. They weren’t able to rescue every life, but that’s only because they were human. It takes courage and selflessness to be able to react the way you did. You went against your inherent instinct of fleeing.
SM: I’m thankful for the lives that were saved. I’m thankful for the friends that are still here. I’m sad. Joaquin shouldn’t have gone, but I’m thankful for the people that survived.
PD: No one should have lost any friends, brothers, sisters, boyfriends, or children. Right now we need to focus on moving forward, What we can do right now, how we can come together, show love for each other. It is much easier to hate than to love.
SM: Yeah, it’s about spreading love now.
PD: How will you feel going back to school for the first time after this tragedy?
SM: I’m not going to be scared, but I’m going to be on high-alert. I’m going to guard myself and others. Nobody should walk alone in those hallways.
PD: Multiple people have come forward and said that there is no surprise that the shooter was the shooter. What are your thoughts on this?
SM: Why didn’t they say anything? He said he was going to be a professional school shooter and look what happened. We need to act on these kinds of signals to prevent something of this magnitude from ever happening.
PD: What do you think we can do to stop this?
SM: We need more security. Whatever tactics are currently being implemented should be removed, and we should seek new ones. There is no reason that an expelled student or, any human being not attending Douglas, should be able to walk on school grounds at their leisure. You don’t know who has malicious intentions.
PD: What advice are you giving to the people that might be hurting right now?
SM: Stay strong. Stay with loved ones and be around people. Speak to each other, share your emotions. Coming together is essential in this healing process. We just need to stay strong and move forward. We can’t choose to forget this day, but we can choose to make this day better. I’m proud to be an Eagle.
Featured image courtesy of Pedro Damasceno
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