© 2023 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Black Parkland Shooting Survivor, Now Attending College In D.C., Struggles With Armed Military Presence For Inauguration

Aalayah Eastmond protest.jpg
Courtesy of Aalayah Eastmond
Aalayah Eastmond, 19, a sophomore at Trinity Washington University and a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, participates in a protest last year in Washington, D.C.

Aalayah Eastmond shares what it's like to experience this difficult moment in the nation's capital as a young Black woman and a survivor of gun violence.

Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and in preparation for Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, about 25,000 members of the National Guard have been stationed in Washington, D.C.

WLRN is committed to providing South Florida with trusted news and information. In these uncertain times, our mission is more vital than ever. Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you.

The heavy armed presence can be unnerving, especially for people who have had traumatic experiences with law enforcement or guns. A Black student who survived the Parkland school shooting and now attends college in D.C. shared her struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder on Twitter.

“Last night was the hardest night I’ve experienced in a very long time,” Aalayah Eastmond, 19, tweeted over the weekend. She survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, and now she is a sophomore at Trinity Washington University.

“As I was driving home, without realizing how close these massive armed military guards/check points are to me, I passed a few lined up on the street,” she wrote. “Holding the same exact gun I almost died from at my HS.”

National Guardsmen carry the M-4 rifle, which is the automatic, military version of an AR-15 — the gun used by the confessed shooter in Parkland.

Eastmond said she suffered a PTSD flashback after seeing military officers holding the rifles. Her reaction, she said, was twofold: Not only is she traumatized from her experience in Parkland, but also she said her distrust of law enforcement was reinforced over the summer when officers came down hard on her and other protesters during uprisings against racial injustice and police brutality.

“It's very frustrating that we have to lend ourselves to the idea of military and an extensive amount of police to keep us safe,” she told WLRN, “when we know, in history, they have not kept Black people safe.”

Jessica Bakeman is senior editor for news at WLRN, South Florida's NPR member station. Previously, Bakeman served as WLRN's education reporter for four years. Bakeman was awarded the 2020 Journalist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.