‘She didn’t make it’: Students who survived Florida school shooting describe the rush for safety

A 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, killing 17 people, authorities said.

Kristi Gilroy, right, hugs a young woman at a police check point near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. —Mark Wilson / Getty Images

One student used a book to shield herself from the gunfire. Another hid behind her teacher’s desk. A third huddled with his classmates, silencing his phone to avoid the attention of the gunman who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Wednesday.

Students who lived through the mass shooting have begun sharing how they survived the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years, describing what it was like inside the Parkland, Florida, school in the moments after the shooting started.

The alleged gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school, was arrested and is being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

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Samantha Grady, who was wounded in the attack, told the “Today” show her best friend was shot beside her.

“She didn’t make it,” she said.

The student told the show’s hosts she was working on an assignment when she heard two gunshots. Her friend pushed her, and she ran with other students in the room to a bookshelf for shelter.

She said she heard the gunman shoot two people she knew in the hallway before he came for the classroom she was in.

“The door was locked thankfully,” Grady said. “But he shot quite a few bullets into the glass, and it hit a few people behind me.”

At the suggestion of her friend, Grady said she held up a book to help shield herself from the bullets.

Connor King, a freshman at the school, told “Good Morning America” he was on the third floor of the freshman school building when the second fire alarm of the day went off. He said he and his classmates didn’t know what was going on at first, but then they heard gunshots.

“Everybody ran back into their classrooms,” he said. “When were inside, everybody piled on top of each other. It was really squished together, like, I couldn’t move my legs. Somebody had to help me get my phone out of my pocket, so I could turn that off so it didn’t ring.”

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King said he could hear the gunman on the first floor, but said  “he got to the third floor pretty fast.”

The classroom door was locked, but he said the gunman was “right outside” and shot around the doors.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said.

Kesley Friend told CNN she was in her geography class when the fire alarm went off.

“Everybody stopped moving,” she said. “Nobody was going down the stairs, everybody was just looking around, like what’s going on. And then all of a sudden it was like a wave of kids running back upstairs, screaming, some were already saying — some were crying — some were saying, ‘Oh my goodness.’”

Friend said she told her geography teacher she was scared. When they heard the gunshots, the teacher unlocked the classroom door so Friend and her classmates could go back inside.

Friend said she ran inside to hide by her teacher’s desk thinking he was behind her, but he wasn’t. He died in the doorway of the classroom, she said.

“I heard the gunshots and I heard the shooter walk down the hallway shooting more kids,” the teen said. “I heard a young man crying for his mother, dying.”

Friend said she thought the whole thing could have been a drill until she saw her teacher “dead on the floor.”

“I believe that my teacher — the reason why he was laying the doorway was because he protected us and so the shooter probably thought, ‘There’s no kids in there because the classroom was empty,’” she said. “It looked empty. So I believe that the shooter didn’t think that there were any kids in there. But there were probably 15 to 20 kids in there with me.”

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A senior at the school, David Hogg, told CNN a janitor stopped the group of students he was with when they were running in the wrong direction, toward the shooter.

“I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m alive today,” he said.

Hogg also issued a message to lawmakers, begging politicians to take action.

“There’s something seriously wrong here,” he said.

Watch: President Trump addresses the tragedy in Parkland, Florida