For Emily Pacenti, Friday was supposed to be a happy day — she graduated from Dreyfoos School of the Arts. But when she got out of the ceremony and turned on her phone, she saw a news alert. There had been another high school shooting, this time in Santa Fe, Texas.
“In the time that it took us to walk across the stage and get our diploma, eight people were killed,” Pacenti said.
Details emerged throughout Friday, but at least 10 people were confirmed killed and at least 10 others injured at Santa Fe High School, halfway between Houston and Galveston. Authorities say gunfire erupted shortly after school started at 7:30 a.m. local time.
CNN identified the gunman as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he used a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver that belonged to his father and that Pagourtzis had planned to kill himself. USA Today reported that Friday marked the 20th school shooting in the U.S. this year.
The shooting comes nearly three months after Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. Many high school students nationwide took the incident as a time to demand stricter gun laws at the state and national level.
Pacenti was one of them. She and several other high school students spoke at a forum at The Palm Beach Post in the aftermath of the Parkland shootings.
“We can’t believe this happening when it just happened so close to home,” Pacenti, whose father, John Pacenti, is a Post reporter. “We’re shocked. We’re angry.”
Christina Pugliese, a senior about to graduate from Palm Beach Central High School, said she felt the same.
“When I got that notification, I got the feeling of pure disgust all over me,” said Pugliese, who also participated in the Palm Beach Post forum, which was streamed live on Facebook. “When is it going to stop?”
Both said they would continue to campaign for stricter gun control.
“When the community does a march, I will be there,” Pugliese said. “Because there will be a march. We’ve got to keep doing this, apparently.”
Pugliese will be attending University of Florida in the fall to study telecommunications.
Students at Dreyfoos, in West Palm Beach, started a chapter of Students Against Gun Violence, and though Pacenti said she is unsure of their plans, she believes they will be active in the time following today’s shooting.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw something in the coming months, weeks or days,” she said. “Just because this wasn’t our backyard doesn’t mean we won’t fight against this and fight for better gun control.”
Surprised? ‘Sadly’ not
Isabelle Datz, a sophomore at West Boca Raton High School, said she’s doing everything she can to make change happen. She said she started an activism club called “WBHS Never Again” and helped the school’s principal with a voter registration drive on its campus.
“I want to be as efficient as possible,” said Datz, 16.
Boca Raton High School student Lauren Bonich said she “sadly” was not surprised to see another school shooting. Her family friend was injured at the Las Vegas shooting in November, so she said she can relate to the pain families in Texas must be feeling.
Bonich said she and her classmates should not feel afraid at school.
“A shooting shouldn’t have to happen to kids, no matter the circumstance,” she said. “All of us are so afraid every single day.”
It starts with culture
When Jacob Kessel heard about the Texas shooting on Snapchat, he felt frustrated.
Just three months after the Parkland shooting, another group of high school students, this time across the country, found themselves hiding from gunfire.
“It just seems like no matter how hard we scream for it, there’s no action being taken,” said Kessel, a graduating senior from Palm Beach Central High School.
Kessel wants to see people who are pro-gun and pro-gun reform come to the table to discuss the best next steps. He thinks both sides agree schools need to be safer, but just need to work out how to achieve it.
For Kessel, it starts with culture.
“Guns are able to be sold at Walmart, which is just ridiculous,” said Kessel, 18. “Guns should not be taken as lightly as they are.”
Aldair Hernandez thinks of the families.
As Hernandez prepares for his own graduation from Forest Hill High School next week, he knows 10 people in Texas won’t get a diploma or see their families beaming in the audience.
“That’s even more family that won’t be able to see their child cross the stage, and that’s devastating,” Hernandez said.
‘You realize how unsafe you can feel’
Isabelle Eisenberg started calling her representatives every day after Parkland, waiting for a response. But as the weeks passed and calls went unanswered, she stopped.
Now, after the Texas shooting, Eisenberg said she plans to keep calling her representatives again.
Eisenberg, a 16-year-old sophomore at Olympic Heights High School, said she felt angrier learning about the Texas shooting that she did when she learned about Parkland.
“You see all these movements and change and all this stuff happening, and you think, this is really it,” she said. “And then you see it happen again in another state.”
Eisenberg found out about the shooting from her mom, who texted her saying she was horrified for Eisenberg to return to school in the fall.
Eisenberg is scared, too. Sometimes when she hears a loud noise at school, she jumps. And it scares her seeing the gun store near her school advertising.
Her hope, and belief, is that change will come in the next election. She thinks too many people have been affected by gun violence for there to not be.
Dominique Allen can’t vote yet, but she helped register 100 of her fellow seniors at Santaluces Community High School after the Parkland shooting.
Allen, 17, wants to keep fighting for change in the community. She and friends are looking to hold forums about who is up for election, and she also hopes to visit Tallahassee to talk about advancing gun regulation.
She said the Parkland shooting felt different because it was close to home, but she knows how the people in Texas must be feeling. When she heard about the shooting on Instagram, she said she was horrified but not surprised.
“You never think it’ll happen to you, and then you realize how unsafe you can feel,” she said.
‘I had PTSD’
Valentina Veloza knows it could have been her. Veloza and her mom moved from Parkland to Jupiter in 2015. In middle school, she had class with the Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz and two victims, Meadow Pollack and Joaquin Oliver.
On Friday, Veloza and about 100 others attended Jupiter High School’s Stoneman Strong fundraiser, which had been planned months in advance to raise money for Sandy Hook Promise. On the day the crowd was supposed to talk about Parkland, the school shooting in Santa Fe gave renewed meaning to the students.
Veloza remembered how on the first day at school after the Parkland shooting she got to the school gates and had to show her ID—a new security measure. She broke into tears.
“Each knock at the door, I thought I was gonna die,” Veloza said. “I have PTSD for something I didn’t even go through.”
When she heard about the most recent shooting, Veloza said she wasn’t surprised. Even though it’s been three months since Parkland, she still thinks about school shootings often.
“It’s really hard to sleep at night because I think about school the next day, and what’s going to happen?” she said.
‘Not just one factor’
At the Stoneman Strong event, organizers Josie Lesser and Gabriela Young brought together politicians, voter registration table, gun safety organizations and mental health awareness groups.
“I believe that there’s not just one factor that goes into a school shooting,” said Young, a 17-year-old junior at Jupiter High School.
The duo had already planned a moment of silence for all the victims of Parkland, but after seeing the Texas shooting they expanded it into a moment of silence for all victims of gun violence.
Lesser said Parkland hit closer to home, but seeing the shooting in Texas was still upsetting. Both girls said they wish they could say they were surprised.
“It’s that same heart sinking feeling,” Lesser said.
‘Just walking into school is a risk’
Nearly 4,000 people came to the West Palm Beach March For Our Lives, which Seminole Ridge High School junior Valerie Rangel organized.
She took action after the Parkland shooting “set off a fear” in her.
Rangel, 17, said she feels like politicians and adults still don’t understand how the students feel.
“They don’t know what being a student in today’s climate is like,” she said. “Just walking into school is a risk, which it shouldn’t be.”
After hearing about the most recent school shooting, Rangel said she was upset, but feels numbed to the news.
“You hope and you hope and nothing changes,” Rangel said. “What do I do now?”