Parkland school shooting survivor among those calling for gun control as legislation stalls in Senate

PARKLAND, Fla. – Aalayah Eastmond was 17 years old when she survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in the 1200 building. She was in her History of the Holocaust class in Room 1214 when a former student armed with an AR-15 rifle shot inside.

Four were injured and two died in her class. Eastmond saw Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet get killed. They were both 17 years old. She decided to play dead, so the gunman wouldn’t target her during the rampage that left 17 dead and 17 injured.

“I hid beneath the body of my classmate Nicholas ... as the gunman continued to shoot into my class,” said Eastmond, now a 20-year-old aspiring attorney who is attending Trinity Washington University.

Eastmond marked the three-year anniversary of the March for Our Lives, a student-led demonstration in Washington, D.C., with more activism against gun violence.

In this March 24, 2018 file photo, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools stand together on stage at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

Eastmond delivered a speech at the March for Our Lives stage in an effort to push for gun control legislation. She told her harrowing story again on Wednesday during a Zoom meeting with legislators.

Rep. Ted Deutch was in support of the student-led marches, which involved members of Never Again MSD, a student-led political action committee for gun control, and Everytown for Gun Safety, a New York-based nonprofit organization advocating against gun violence.

“The changes we were demanding then, are the same changes we are demanding today,” Deutch said during the meeting on Zoom.

The virtual meeting also included a few of the parents of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre and other Democratic lawmakers from South Florida.

“In the last past week, we have seen 18 previous people ripped from their families by a man and a firearm,” said Rep. Lois Frankel about shootings in Colorado and Georgia.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa is accused of using a Ruger AR-556 pistol to kill 10 people in Boulder, Colorado. Alissa, 21, bought the weapon on March 16, when Robert Long, 21, was accused of killing eight people inside massage parlors in the Atlanta area.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz agrees with Deutch and Frankel on the urgency of the pleas for gun control. Her request: “Demand an end to this wanton bloodshed!”

Jaime Guttenberg, 14, and Joaquin Oliver, 17, were among the 17 people killed during the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Their fathers Fred Guttenberg and Manuel Oliver are still grieving the loss. Their pleas for gun control have also gone unheard.

“I am a father with two kids and I visit one in a cemetery,” Fred Guttenberg said. “The one that I don’t visit in a cemetery heard the bullets that killed his sister.”

They were all urging the U.S. Senate to pass two House-approved bills that would tighten gun sale regulations. President Joe Biden has said he is ready to sign them into law.

“We have seen mass shooting after mass shooting,” Manuel Oliver said adding, “If we don’t do anything, if the inaction of our leaders continues, there will be no change and we won’t be able to save any lives.”


File photo by RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images (Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)

Valentine’s Day 2018 in Parkland: Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Martin Duque, 14; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Alaina Petty, 14; Alex Schachter, 14; Peter Wang, 15; Luke Hoyer, 15; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Helena Ramsay, 17; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Meadow Pollack, 18; Scott Beigel, 35; Aaron Feis, 37; and Chris Hixon, 49.

A make-shift memorial is seen outside a business where a multiple fatal shooting occurred on Tuesday, Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Acworth, Ga. Robert Aaron Long, a white man, is accused of killing several people, most of whom were of Asian descent, at massage parlors in the Atlanta area. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

March 16 in Georgia: Long confessed to shooting people inside the Youngs Asian Massage Parlor, the Gold Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa. The victims: Delaina Yaun, 33; Daoyou Feng, 44; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Paul Michels, 54; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Suncha Kim, 69; and Soon Chung Park, 74.

A mourner places a rose amid bouquets in tribute around a police cruiser for Boulder, Colo., police officer Eric Talley, who was one of 10 victims in Monday's mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday in Colorado: The massacre started in the King Soopers supermarket’s parking lot. Neven Stanisic, 23, was shot and killed in his car. Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, 51, a father of seven, died while responding to the shooting. Three were store employees: Denny Stong, 20; Rikki Olds, 25; and Teri Leiker, 51. Lynn Murray, 62, was an Instacart shopper. The other victims were Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; and Jodi Waters, 65.

Other shootings in Colorado

Sept. 27, 2006 school hostage situation: A 53-year-old gunman took seven girls hostage in a classroom at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, to sexually assault them. He fatally shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes and died by suicide.

Dec. 9, 2007 shootings: A 24-year-old man killed Philip Crouse, 24, and Tiffany Johnson, 26, at the Youth With A Mission training center in Arvada, and sisters Rachel, 16, and Stephanie Works, 18, at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. A former Minneapolis police officer at the New Life Church shot at the man. The wounded shooter died by suicide.

July 20, 2012 massacre: A 24-year-old man walked into a movie theater in Aurora and killed 12 people. The victims were 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alexander J. Boik, 18; Micayla Medek, 23; Alexander C. Teves, 24; Jessica Ghawi, 24; Jonathan Blunk, 26; John Larimer, 27; Matt McQuinn, 27; Alex Sullivan, 27; Jesse Childress, 29; Rebecca Wingo, 31; and Gordon Cowden, 51. The shooter survived to be convicted and is in prison.

Nov. 27, 2015 shooting: A 57-year-old man attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He killed Ke’Arre M. Stewart, 29; Jennifer Markovsky, 35; and Officer Garrett Swasey, 44. The shooter survived to be convicted and is in prison.

Nov. 1, 2017 shooting: A 47-year-old man shot inside a Walmart Superstore in Thornton. He killed Victor Vasquez, 26; Pamela Marques, 52; and Carlos Moreno, 66. The shooter survived to be convicted and is in prison.

May 7, 2019 school shooting: A 16-year-old transgender boy and an 18-year-old man fired weapons inside the STEM School Highlands Ranch charter school near Denver. Kendrick Castillo, 18, died while trying to disarm one of the shooters. Both survived and their trials are pending.

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.