Alex Robinson is a 17-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She’s also a popular vlogger on YouTube, where she posts weekly videos for over 187,000 subscribers. She was at school on February 14, when a gunman killed 17 people and injured many more, marking the 17th school shooting of the year. She agreed to share with MTV News her experience of living through the shooting, and explained how she's coping, how she's changed, and how her generation can make sure this never happens again.
I was born in New Jersey but I’ve pretty much lived in Parkland my whole life. You can ask anybody here: Parkland is a bubble. It’s perfect. The greenery and the trees are perfect, there’s flowers everywhere, there’s always nice cars on the street. It’s like something you’d see on TV; a suburban neighborhood. It’s always been a safe place and a cozy town to be in. It’s small, but everybody pretty much knows each other, and if you don’t know them, at some point you’re going to get to know them.
Douglas has about 3,100 kids, and it’s a very close-knit community. We have a lot of creative kids here. I do peer counseling in school, but besides that, I mostly focus on personal projects, like my YouTube channel. That’s my biggest passion. It’s a whole range of things — anything that could make you laugh could be on my channel. I put my family on there because they’re crazy, I like to prank my friends sometimes, and I do vlogs because people like to see more insight into your life and see you get more personal. At school I’m like ‘that YouTube girl.’
The day of the shooting, I was in my fourth period astronomy class. We were outside, looking at sunspots through the telescope. All of a sudden, the fire alarm went off, which was strange because during second period that day, we had already had a fire drill. Our initial thought was that this is a real fire, so we grabbed our stuff and started leaving the classroom. As we’re going down the stairs, that’s when I heard two pops. Maybe this is silly of me, but I honestly wasn’t registering what was happening. You don’t ever think something like that happens in your school, so that’s not the first thought. After I heard those pops, about 20 seconds later, I see kids sprinting towards me, faster than I’ve ever seen anyone run. I heard someone yell that his leg was bleeding because he just got shot.
At that point I started running, and then after about a minute, I noticed that kids were walking again. I was like, ‘Oh, it was probably some kid lying to me before trying to scare me.’ But then a security guard came up to us on a golf cart and told us to run. That’s when I knew it was real, so I just ran for my life. I hopped a fence and threw my stuff over. My shoes kept falling off my feet, so I threw my shoes over and my backpack with my laptop in it. Luckily, I saw two of my friends while I was running. It was scary, so it was nice to have them there.
As I was running, I called my mom. She got in her car right away and came to meet me. I stopped running when I got to the Walmart next to my school, about half a mile out. As I was waiting for my mom, I saw tons of cop cars speeding down the road and helicopters in the sky, and then I checked Twitter and I saw news tweets about a school shooting at Stoneman Douglas. I said, ‘Oh my god, this is real. This is really happening right now.’ My mom got me, and we went home and turned on the news and heard about people that are missing and people that are injured. We were in shock, and I’m still honestly in shock right now. I haven’t fully processed what happened. I don’t know when I will.
I had a few friends that unfortunately lost their lives that day. Coach Feis, who was such a great man. He let the seniors into their parking spaces every day. He would always smile at you and wave; it was like a tradition with everybody. There was Joaquin Oliver. He was friends with everybody. He was just a really happy kid, and he had a smile on his face whenever he walked by you. There was Nick Dworet, who was in one of my classes, and honestly he was the nicest kid I’ve ever met. He had such a kind soul. And Meadow Pollack, who I sadly was not close with, but I knew her from elementary school. It’s just scary to think that someone you knew from such a young age is now dead.
We had a school shooting drill two or three weeks before this happened. I remember everybody was in the corner laughing because we were all trying to huddle in one spot and we’re like, ’Oh we feel so silly right now, we’re 30 kids in one little corner.’ Nobody was really thinking that this was going to happen not even three weeks later. It’s insane. If it can happen in a town like Parkland, it can happen anywhere.
The first day after the shooting, I posted my first video. I had viewers tweeting me, asking, ‘What’s happening, what’s happening?’ and I felt like, as a creator, I wanted to inform my viewers because I was there. Then I spent the next two days making a small tribute video and I posted that. For me to get back to my usual funny videos, it’s probably going to be a little bit. I’m going to get there, but it just doesn’t feel like the right time to be making funny videos right now. My focus is spreading awareness and paying respect to the victims.
What’s helping me cope is being with my friends. We’ve been having important conversations — we’ve been talking a lot about gun control and about what we can do for the families of the victims. Ninety-five percent of what we’ve been talking about has been about [the shooting] and what we feel needs to be changed. It’s interesting, actually, because I never had conversations like this with my friends before. I never really got political with them, but now that this has happened, it’s opened up a whole new realm of things to talk about. That’s how you change things: you get together and you voice your opinions.
A school shooting of this scale hasn’t happened since Sandy Hook. There have been other ones, of course, but none of this magnitude. With Sandy Hook, the children can’t speak on it; they’re too young. But we’re the generation of social media. We’re the generation of voicing what we feel. It’s a totally different world than when Columbine happened. Teenagers are honestly the most powerful people because we have social media on our side. That’s what kids in our generation are bringing to the table: We’re bringing change that people want to see happen.
I went to my school yesterday for just a few minutes, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. My principal was there, and there was a line of people waiting to hug him. There were therapy dogs and grief counselors. I just wanted to show up for a few minutes and see my other classmates and my teachers and just give them a hug. Believe it or not, I’m excited to go back to school. I don’t think a tragedy like this should take away our Eagle pride. I think that’s what the victims would’ve wanted: They would’ve wanted us to go back and reclaim our school.
I got a tattoo of the word “seventeen” for the 17 victims. Almost every kid in my grade has gotten a tattoo since this has happened. Hundreds of kids have gotten one. It’s always going to be a part of us and we’re always going to remember it, and putting it on your body [means that] no matter where you go, you always know, ‘My town and I, we went through the worst imaginable tragedy and we came out of it stronger.’ We’re always going to remember the people that lost their lives. We’re never going to take our lives for granted. It’s a nice reminder to be grateful.
I’ll speak for my town when I say the support we’ve received from the rest of the country and even the world is just... we can’t say thank you enough. It really means the world when you go on Twitter or Instagram and you see people in states and cities you’ve never heard of saying, ‘We stand with you, Stoneman Douglas.’ That is the most heartwarming thing to our school.
For five ways you can take action on gun violence, head over to Everytown.org.