Immediately after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, counselors and therapists were available in local parks. But since that public showing of mental health support, students and their families continue to struggle with the trauma of what happened.
Stacy-Ann Llewellyn lost her 17 year-old brother to gun violence in Brooklyn 15 years ago. She never considered a shooting would impact her that closely again. Her daughter Aalayah Eastmond is a junior at Stoneman Douglas.
Aalayah was in one of the classrooms that got shot at. Two of the students in her class died.
Aalayah and her mom tried two of the free therapy sessions provided at a local park, but Llewellyn said her daughter wanted a more private setting with a therapist she can form a connection with over time. So far, they have not found that.
One of the barriers is cost. Llewlyn, a single mom, said she can't afford the long-term mental health care her daughter will likely need. The mom and daughter talked to WLRN reporter Nadege Green about the day of the shooting and healing.
*A note : Some of what you’re about to hear/read describes the shooting in graphic detail.
Stacy-Ann: I'm a single parent of one and I invested in my daughter's education. We was living in Lauderhill. I sacrifice and move to Coral Springs because she wanted to go to this school because she was playing the violin.
Aalayah:I went to Coral Springs middle and that’s the neighboring middle school. I’ve been doing concerts at Douglas since I was in sixth grade. It was the only high school I was familiar with and I heard very good things about their academics.
Stacy-Ann: The minute I put her in Parkland high school her grades shoot up. She has concerts. I feel like in Lauderhill we didn't have those outlets.
Aalayah: I was in room 1214. I was on the first floor of the freshman building. It was just a regular class period sitting there. I heard the first shots and we all paused for a moment and looked at each other.
And then when bullets came in, I'm behind Nicholas Dworet. He falls over. I go underneath him. Before I went underneath him, I knew he was gone.
After the bullets stop, two students pulled me behind the filing cabinet and that's when I called my parents.
Stacy-Ann: That's when she was like, “Mom there's a school shooter. He just shot up our class. He's going to come back. I'm going to die. I'm sorry for everything that I've done wrong. I apologize. Please forgive me. This might be my last conversation.”
My brain's like telling me, “Like, no. This can't be. We in [a] Parkland high school.”
No parent should have to hear their kid apologizing for being a brat, for being rude, you know, because her life is going to be snuffed away. We both thought that she was going to die.
I told her, “Aaliyah, come off this phone right now. I don't want him to hear that you're talking and you're alive.”
I didn't want to hear my daughter getting shot. And I just went on my knees and I started to pray.
Aalayah: When law enforcement came in they’re screaming at us and we're screaming back at them that they're students that are bleeding out and we need help now. And they’re yelling as us to get up and put our hands in the air.
Stacy-Ann: Well, I was on the road trying to get to her. The FBI, whoever, took her in, questioned her and he would not release her in my custody. The reason why the cops [took] her after, her clothes was saturated with blood.
Aalayah: After I did my witness statement, they drove me to the Marriott and she didn't get me until 9:30..
Stacy-Ann: I felt like a rebirth, like this is the first time the doctor gave me my baby in the hospital. I honestly felt like a new Aalayah was given to me and I have to cherish her.
A new Aalayah, a new mom, because hugging my baby I know she was safe
I want to put this behind me, but before I put this behind me I have to address it. And it's still not being addressed. We need therapy. Aalayah need therapy.
I don’t know how much days Aalayah’s going to need therapy. You know, I’m a single mom. I’m on a budget, but Aalayah do need the therapy because that’s the start of healing.
Aalayah: We do need help. All of us. And it's not being addressed enough. Nobody's talking about that part
Stacy-Ann: When she starts to heal I will start to heal because, you know, I have to make sure her well-being is met before mine.
Parkland Cares is one group that is trying to address the mental health needs of the community long-term It verifies and pays for trained trauma therapists and therapy groups for the Parkland community to get the counseling they need at little to no cost.
You can read more about them here.