It is a moment none of us ever want to imagine.
15-year-old Lillian Duarte was well-versed in active shooter school lockdown drills — she had participated in almost 50 of them in the five years she’s been a student at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Just a few miles away from Columbine High School.
“Attention please. Lockdown. Locks, lights out of sight,” said the automated announcement. It was nothing she wasn’t already used to, except this time it was not just a drill. It was real.
On Tuesday afternoon, Duarte and her classmates sat in a dark classroom, listening to the automated announcement fill the dead silence, only to heighten anxiety. It was the most terrifying 20 minutes of their lives.
Two students opened fire on their classmates, killing one and injuring eight others. Then they were taken into custody.
After the shooting, Duarte provided Buzzfeed News with videos she had taken during the shooting. She also provided screenshots of scary text exchanges with friends and family during that time.
Both the video clips and text messages provide a glimpse into the horrifying event. It’s terrible, but with how common shootings have become, it’s nothing we don’t already know.
On Wednesday, Duarte explained to Buzzfeed News that when the lockdown first began, she and her math teacher, plus about 35 other students, were confused as to whether or not this was just a drill or not.
“The teacher paused for a second,” Duarte told Buzzfeed News. “She wasn’t sure whether to lock the door or not. Everyone thought it was a drill at the time.”
Assuming it was just a drill — because that is what they were used to — they all sat in clear view of the classroom door.
Suddenly, Duarte received a text message from her friend in a group chat confirming that it was indeed, an actual shooting.
“This is real. There’s a shooter. I’m not kidding,” her friend said.
Then Duarte texted three of her friends the most heartbreaking message, “I just want to say I love you all if anything happens.”
“Are the police here what’s happening I’m so scared.”
“Whoever’s doing it was in the room next to me,” one of her friends wrote in the group chat. “He yelled I have a gun.”
“I feel so exposed where I’m sitting I feel it wouldn’t be hard at all to kill me,” Duarte texted her friends, as she was still sitting in clear view of the classroom door.
Duarte showed the texts to her teacher and once she was informed, they turned down the lights and moved to the other end of the room, farther away from the door.
“I’m so scared I started crying,” Duarte told her friends.
“We were all just so worried we would die,” Duarte later told Buzzfeed, explaining why she was also texting her family and telling them that she loves them.
You can hear shouting in the distance in the videos that Duarte recorded during the shooting.
“They’re trying to get him now. The police,” one of her friends who was near the shooting told their friends. “I just heard someone yell freeze.”
Duarte also caught footage of the moment when the police knocked down the classroom door to tell the students to exit the classroom with their hands over their heads. Of course, she didn’t know it was the police at first and thought it was the shooters, so she began crying.
The young woman explained the experience as surreal, telling Buzzfeed News “it was just surprising that it was us… It was not surprising that it happened.”
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Source: Buzzfeed News