Revisiting the calls for change after the Parkland shooting
A year after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 60 Minutes looks back at the group of survivors who fought to end gun violence
Editor's Note: A year ago Thursday, a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The following month, 60 Minutes' Sharyn Alfonsi spoke with a group of survivors from the school who demanded lawmakers offer more than just "thoughts and prayers" in response to the shooting. Below is a transcript of that story.
By now the story is familiar but no less heartbreaking. On Valentine's Day, a former student walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, pulled an AR-15 out of his duffle bag and began shooting. Students hid in closets and played dead. When it was over 17 people were killed — 14 of them students. In the hours that followed, there were vigils and a string of lawmakers offered their "thoughts and prayers." Then, something different happened. The students of Stoneman Douglas gathered in living rooms and in front of cameras, declaring never again. In less than a month, the teens did what few thought possible, they changed gun laws in Florida and ignited a national movement. We wondered how a generation with a notoriously short attention span plans to hold the nation's attention. You'll hear from them later. But we begin with another classmate who hasn't been seen or heard from since the shooting.
"He told me, 'Dad I got shot.' I just said, 'keep talking to me, ok, don't go. Don't leave me, keep talking to me.'"
This is Anthony Borges. He is 15 years old and should be at soccer practice. But when we met him on Tuesday, he was struggling to breathe. He'd just come off a ventilator the day before. Anthony's father Roger told us his son has had eight surgeries already. Another is being scheduled. He was shot five times just outside his classroom at Stoneman Douglas High.
Sharyn Alfonsi: He was face to face with the shooter?
Roger Borges: Yeah. He got shot in the leg, and he tried to shut the door.
Sharyn Alfonsi: He tried to shut the door?
Roger Borges: In that moment he received another in the back.
The Borges family is from Venezuela. Roger wanted the world to see what happened to his son.
Sharyn Alfonsi: He called you, right?
Roger Borges: Yeah he called me right at the moment he laid down on the floor and he told me 'Dad I got shot'. I just said keep talking to me — ok — don't go– don't leave me– keep talking to me.
Sharyn Alfonsi: And where was he shot?
Roger Borges: Right here. Right here.
One shattered his thigh bone. Another damaged a lung and liver.
Roger Borges: That's a miracle for me.
Sharyn Alfonsi: This is a miracle that he's still alive?
Roger Borges: Yeah.
Sharyn Alfonsi: That he is not number 18
Roger Borges: No. No.
Roger, a handyman, is now praying for another miracle: help paying his son's medical bills. Stories like Anthony's unfold quietly in hospitals after every mass shooting. But what happened in Parkland is different. Instead of retreating into their gated neighborhoods, and asking for privacy or saying it was "too soon" to talk about guns, Parkland decided it was exactly the right moment to talk about guns. It was the students who stepped forward first and said never again. You've probably heard a lot from them over the last month, but we were surprised about what they had to say about the fate of the gunman.
Sharyn Alfonsi: The Florida prosecutor announced today that he's gonna seek the death penalty against Nikolas Cruz. And I just wanna get your thoughts on that. Emma?
Emma Gonzalez: Good.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Good why?
Emma Gonzalez: Good that he's seeking the death penalty for Nick Cruz.
Cameron Kasky: I don't wanna think about Nick Cruz. I think the more we think about him, the more he wins. That being said, in a way I disagree with Emma. Let him rot forever.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Let him rot in jail.
David Hogg: I wanna see him rot forever as Cameron just said, but when we pursue the death penalty, this will be kept in the media for much longer.
Jaclyn Corin: I just don't want him to get what he wants. I want him to suffer no matter what.
Alex Wind: The death of one person, as terrible of a person as he is, cannot outweigh the death of the 17.
"I was born months after Columbine. I'm 17 years old, and we've had 17 years of mass shootings."
Alex Wind, a self-described theater geek, Jaclyn Corin, the junior class president, student reporter David Hogg, and senior Emma Gonzalez started what they call the never-again movement in Cameron Kasky's living room. In the hours after the attack, filled with grief but fueled with anger and armed with their phones, the teenagers got to work. First, they set off a firestorm of tweets, many aimed at lawmakers. They said yes to almost every interview request and used social media to organize a student-led protest at the state capitol. In three weeks, they'd convinced Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott to defy the National Rifle Association, something that hasn't happened in Florida in 20 years.
Sharyn Alfonsi: The new Florida law raises the age to buy a rifle to 21. It introduces a three-day waiting period on gun sales, and it makes more money available for mental health services. Give us a grade on what's been accomplished.
Cameron Kasky: C.
David Hogg: I was gonna say C-minus.
Jaclyn Corin: We can't praise them for doing what they've done because that wouldn't have stopped what happened at our school.
Cameron Kasky: That being said the Florida bill is much more impressive than that embarrassing Stop School Violence Act that they're pushing in D.C. which is just a bunch of hot air, fluff. Doesn't use the word gun once when all these tragedies, again, the one thing that has linked them together is the gun.
On Saturday, they're hoping a half million people will join them to march in Washington. They want Congress to ban military-style rifles along with the kind of high-capacity magazines that were used in Las Vegas, and at Sandy Hook.
Sharyn Alfonsi: I know I can't help but think. "Sandy Hook happened. Those parents made it their life's mission to try to get some real change. What makes you think that you guys could do more? That this could be different?
Alex Wind: The thing about it is we are the generation that's had to be trapped in closets, waiting for police to come or waiting for a shooter to walk into our door. We are the people who know what it's like first-hand.
Cameron Kasky: We're the mass shooting generation.
Sharyn Alfonsi: "We're the mass shooting generation."
Cameron Kasky: I was born months after Columbine. I'm 17 years old, and we've had 17 years of mass shootings.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Raise your hands if there are guns in your house.
Cameron Kasky: I feel safe because my father has a gun in the house that he can use to protect our family. My family lives on the principle that there are some guns that are made to protect your family from anyone who might come in and try to hurt them, and there are some guns that are made for war.
Emma Gonzalez at rally: We need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He wouldn't have hurt that many people with a knife!
Three days after the shooting, Emma Gonzalez accepted an invitation to speak at a rally. The five-foot-two 18-year-old had to stand on boxes to be heard. Her speech was seen millions of times and ignited the passion of students around the country. She now has more than a million Twitter followers, ten times more than Florida's governor.
Sharyn Alfonsi: So why was it you? Why do you think you broke through?
Emma Gonzalez: It might've been my hair.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Oh, come on.
Emma Gonzalez: Very honestly, it just might have been my hair.
Sharyn Alfonsi: I don't think it was the hair.
Emma Gonzalez: I think it was a little bit the hair. Like, you know, just iconically you think of the picture and you think of a bald girl.
Sharyn Alfonsi: What do you think about this issue of arming teachers?
Emma Gonzalez: It's stupid.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Why?
Emma Gonzalez: First of all, they have– Douglas ran out of paper for, like, two weeks in the school year, and now all the sudden they have $400 million to pay for teachers to get trained to arm themselves? Really? Really? If you have– if you're a teacher and you have a gun, do you keep it in a lockbox or do you carry it on your person? If the teacher dies and a student who's a good student is able to get the gun are they now held responsible to shoot the student who's come into the door? I'm not happy with that.
Emma's mother Beth watched as her daughter became one of the most recognizable faces in one of the most polarizing debates in the country.
Beth Gonzalez: I'm terrified. It's like she built herself a pair of wings out of balsa wood and duct tape and jumped off a building. And we're just, like, running along beneath her with a net, which she doesn't want or think that she needs, you know?
Sharyn Alfonsi: What is happening to her life?
Beth Gonzalez: It's insane. Somebody said, "Please tell Emma we're behind her," which I appreciate. But we shoulda been in front of her, I should've been in front of her. We're all adults, we shoulda dealt with this 20 years ago.
Sharyn Alfonsi: It's a lot to ask of these kids.
Beth Gonzalez: They're asking it of themselves. Some are like, you go girl. But I'm like, what are we doing?
The Douglas students inspired a walkout at nearly 3,000 schools for 17 minutes this past Wednesday. One minute for every life lost in Parkland. They allowed us into their newly donated headquarters. We agreed not to reveal the location.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Why are we being secretive?
Emma Gonzalez: People have sent us a lot of death threats. And I, for one, am paranoid about a bomb being thrown in the window.
David Hogg: The fact that I'm getting death threats, Emma's getting death threats, Cameron's getting death threats, it shows the polarized state that America's in.
Manuel Oliver: The victims are being represented by people that could've been the victim, all right?
Manuel and Patricia Oliver's son was murdered in the shooting. Joaquin was 17 years old and considered one of the most well-liked kids in school. Oliver still coaches Joaquin's basketball team. He knows these kids.
Sharyn Alfonsi: What is it that these kids can do that adults haven't been able to do in the past?
Manuel Oliver: These kids have their cell phones on their hands all day. And and we as parents we criticize that a lot 'cause we ignore the power of that. The difference between this tragedy and others, if you ask me, is that this generation is used to get answers right away. You think they're gonna wait for six months or a year for anybody in Congress or anybody that needs to make the right call?
Sharyn Alfonsi: They're hardwired to do things quickly.
Manuel Oliver: Absolutely. Right away.
The students have already received more than $3 million in donations, most of it from Hollywood.
Sharyn Alfonsi: You guys have gotten checks from big names. George Clooney. Oprah Winfrey. Michael Bloomberg's gun control group is helping you. The Women's March people are helping you. How do you make sure those people aren't using you for their specific agendas?
Cameron Kasky: Well, we don't let them. You see, that's the thing. We all remember everybody has an agenda.
Sharyn Alfonsi: These are people with decades of experience. Are they giving you guidance?
Cameron Kasky: I can't get a hotel room on my own. I'm 17 years old. Of course, we have people helping us with that. I can't get the city permits for ten blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. We allow them to help where they can, but we make sure that we are calling the shots. And everybody who tries to call the shot for us, we respectfully say, "That's not what this is about."
Sharyn Alfonsi: Have you had to do that? Have you seen people trying to push back on you guys?
Cameron Kasky: Politicians have asked us to endorse them. Nope. You can support us all you want, but if you think you can get your hands on our movement? It's just not gonna happen.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Have you turned people away who have offered money?
Cameron Kasky: Yes.
Sharyn Alfonsi: And why have you turned them away?
Cameron Kasky: Because they said, "Here's some money if you do this." The second we get an "if," sorry. It's gone.
During our interview, Alex had to leave early for a theatre performance. Cameron, for a family dinner. They are trying to live their teenage lives, and protect them.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Did you ever think, "I don't wanna get into this. This is a nasty fight that I don't wanna be in the middle of"?
Emma Gonzalez: I mean, I have no choice.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Well, you do. You don't have to.
Emma Gonzalez: No I don't.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Why?
Emma Gonzalez: I have no choice because there were– there were CNN cameras there. My speech was broadcast all over the country in, like, four seconds, and I had no idea they were going to be there. I'm not upset at that. I'm just never going to be the same person again.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Do you think you'll be able to go back to your life?
Emma Gonzalez: I hope so. I don't know. It feels like it's been a year.
Sharyn Alfonsi: It does.
Emma Gonzalez: It really has.
Sharyn Alfonsi: It's been a month.
Emma Gonzalez: It's been less than a month.
Produced by Guy Campanile, Andrew Bast and Lucy Boyd. Associate producers, Gilad Thaler, Alicia Alford, Hannah Fraser-Chanpong and Gisela Perez.