Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heroine Who Hid 19 Students in Cupboard: America Has Failed Us; Brave Teacher Says She Was Prepared but Government 'Didn't Keep Us Safe'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heroine Who Hid 19 Students in Cupboard: America Has Failed Us; Brave Teacher Says She Was Prepared but Government 'Didn't Keep Us Safe'

Article excerpt

Byline: Kiran Randhawa and David Gardner US Correspondent

A TEACHER praised for saving the lives of 19 students during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said: "Our country has failed us".

Melissa Falkowski led terrified pupils into a cupboard where they waited in silence for 30 minutes as the gunman stalked corridors and classrooms.

Ms Falkowski, a language teacher, said: "It was the end of the school day and the fire alarm went off, and went to evacuate as if it was a fire drill. We got maybe 20 steps out of the classroom and we were told we were on code red. We ran back inside and huddled in the corner for a few minutes ... then I made the decision to move everyone to the closet.

"I managed to put 19 kids in the closet with me. This is the worst nightmare that could ever happen." She said most stood in silence, texting relatives, while others burst into tears. "You try to do the best you can for the kids you are supposed to keep safe," she added.

For 30 minutes, they waited until they heard SWAT officers securing the room. Ms Falkowski said staff had been given training to deal with "active shooter" scenarios, which helped save lives: "We could not have been more prepared for this situation. We did everything we were supposed to do."

But she added: "Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and to still have so many casualties, at least for me, it's very emotional. Because I feel today that our government, our country, has failed us and failed our kids and didn't keep us safe."

Football coach Aaron Feis, who threw himself in front of students to protect them from gunfire, was shot and has died in hospital.

"It is with great sadness that our football family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis," the team tweeted. "He selflessly shielded students from the shooter. He died a hero and will forever be in our hearts and memories."

Accounts emerged of students cowering behind desks and barricading themselves in their classrooms. …

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