© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Parents In Florida Are Waiting To Be Reunited With Children After School Shooting


We're going to turn now to Caitie Switalski of member station WLRN. She's in Parkland, Fla., near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and she's at a hotel where parents are waiting to be reunited with their children. Good to talk to you again, Caitie.


SHAPIRO: Describe the scene at that hotel where you are.

SWITALSKI: It's definitely different than right across from the school a block south. At this hotel - it's a golf resort. It's a Marriott golf resort. So if that tells you anything about the area, it's definitely an upper-class area. But here, canines and police are patrolling the hotel. There's FBI units here. It's a much more emotional scene. You know, parents here have been waiting a lot longer to hear from their children. They've been waiting countless hours. And now that they're being reunited one by one, it's more crying, more time for things to set in.

SHAPIRO: This is a scene that I've witnessed in another place before at a shooting that I covered, and it's terrible because some of the parents in that room know they will be reunited with their children, and others will not.

SWITALSKI: Yes. I have not spoken yet with a parent who had not been able to at least hear from their child via text. Parents who truly cannot reach their children I think are being directed to the Broward Health Centers where they've taken injured and victims.

SHAPIRO: And we've heard from the sheriff that there are at least 17 victims, people who have died. What can you tell us about the number of injured, whether the death toll is expected to rise?

SWITALSKI: So we don't know that yet. The sheriff's office said that the shooter was very heavily armed, and they don't know yet how many are truly injured. And as for the injured - the injuries just from trying to run away and the stampeding of fleeing the scene are expected to rise. But there is no word yet from the Broward County Sheriff's Office on expected death toll.

SHAPIRO: You were at the school before you went to that hotel, and I know you spoke with some students there. What did they tell you about how this all unfolded?

SWITALSKI: So it unfolded like an awkward second fire drill. So they had a very scheduled fire drill early in the day. And about 20 minutes into their fourth class of the day, a second fire drill went into place. And the students at first were joking. Some students told me there were jokes of, oh, ha ha, maybe someone shot up the school. But it wasn't until, you know, they left the building and then they had students running up behind them with invisible gunshot wounds screaming, I'd been shot. Don't stop. Keep going. Keep going. And they sort of kicked into emergency preparedness mode at that moment when they saw their classmates bleeding.

SHAPIRO: One of the students we spoke to today told us they were told that the shooter pulled the fire alarm to get people into the halls. We don't know whether that's true. The shooter is in custody. What can you tell us about the suspect?

SWITALSKI: Well, several students have told me that they were also told the shooter was the one who pulled the fire alarm. That's still unconfirmed by BSO. But the shooter now - he was transported to a Broward County health facility and has been released. He is a former student according to the president of the teachers union here. He's 19, Nikolas Cruz. And I haven't spoken to anyone yet who knows him.

SHAPIRO: Caitie Switalski, thank you for joining us. We are going to continue checking in with you as the night goes on.

SWITALSKI: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: That's Caitie Switalski of member station WLRN in Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Caitie Switalski
More from Hawai‘i Public Radio