Florida Shooting Survivor Weighs In On Meeting With President Trump

Feb 21, 2018

Parents and survivors connected to the school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sandy Hook and Columbine, met with President Trump at the White House Wednesday to advocate for better protections for the nation's students.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Today marks one week since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives - the deadliest-ever shooting at a U.S. high school. And some of the students who survived that day were at the White House now for a listening session with President Trump.

Among them was Sam Zeif. He is 18 years old. He's a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Both he and his younger brother, 14-year-old Matthew, were inside the school a week ago today. By cell phone on the bus to the White House this afternoon, Sam told me about that harrowing day.

SAM ZEIF: There had been rumors between the faculty and students that there is going to be a safe practice training. So some people were telling me, it's fake. Don't worry. And I said, that's not fake. I could feel that through the building. That is not fake. So after we got into our spot, we turned the lights off. And after sitting there for about 10 minutes, I realized that my little brother was above me.

KELLY: Yeah.

ZEIF: So I texted him and asked if he was OK. He replied, and, you know, we said our goodbyes.

KELLY: He sent you a text, which you have shared publicly...

ZEIF: Yeah.

KELLY: ...That said, are the cops here? Next text...

ZEIF: Yeah.

KELLY: My teacher died.

ZEIF: You know, I heard the cops talking, but when they came to our door, you know, we didn't move when they said come out here, we're here to help you. So when we didn't answer, they busted our door down. That was probably the most scared I've ever been in my life...

KELLY: Yeah.

ZEIF: ...When they busted our door down. But when I saw them, it was the most relief I have ever felt. And then they escorted us out. We went single file, hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us. And I texted my brother, I'm out of the building. So like, I got outside. I guess I didn't know where to go, so I kind of just ran. And I saw my brother on the corner, gave him the biggest hug I've ever given anyone...

KELLY: Yeah.

ZEIF: ...Told him I loved him. And he told me what he had seen. My brother - my 14-year-old brother watched his teacher save his life and get murdered in front of him. And then when the cops came to escort them, he said he had to step over at least 10 bodies.

KELLY: Over at least 10 bodies, he said. Since Sam Zeif and I spoke, he has met the president. He's been in the White House for this listening session today. And Sam joins us now from there. Hi again.


KELLY: What did you tell President Trump at the White House today?

ZEIF: I told him what I went through as a brother, as a friend, as a son. And I told him that no one should ever have to feel like I did, and that's why I'm here. I'm here speaking for my fallen friends, for my family back in Florida, for Parkland.

KELLY: Did you ask him for anything specific - a specific action that you think needs...

ZEIF: Well...

KELLY: ...To happen for things to change?

ZEIF: Yes. I exclaimed how I turned 18 on February 15, the day after. And I'm kind of disgusted that I can still purchase an AR-15. I told him in Australia, in '99, they had a school shooting, and they put legislation forward to stop it from ever happening again. And I said just how many there's been since - zero.

KELLY: Do you walk away from this meeting feeling that the president heard you, that there might be change?

ZEIF: Well, you know, it's kind of hard to judge someone after only knowing them for 45 minutes, and I'm not sure what the change is going to be. But this is just the start.

KELLY: May I ask about one specific solution that the president proposed in this meeting, which was arming teachers? He talked about...

ZEIF: That...

KELLY: ...Having teachers carry concealed weapons and coaches carry weapons to defend students. That didn't sound like it got a very warm response from the room.


KELLY: What did you think?

ZEIF: That is not right. You know, I spoke to teachers right after that meeting, and I spoke to a teacher there who had been teaching for 19 years. And she said, if they told us that they were arming teachers, she would quit, and she loves her job. But there is a similar solution, and that's security guards who are there for that purpose - for protection. Teachers are there to teach. They shouldn't have to worry about doing what - that. I don't even want to say it.

But there's a security guard who passed, coach Aaron Feis, who saved countless lives. And he pulled up on his golf cart to the scene unarmed, went in there, saved lives. And if he was armed, he would have stopped this, and we wouldn't be where we are right now if he was armed. And he had every necessary attribute to be a great officer, and he would still be alive, and he would have stopped this if he was secure as a security guard.

KELLY: So you're in favor of arming security guards, not arming people in the classrooms and in the locker rooms with students.

ZEIF: Right.

KELLY: You sound like you have grown up a lot this week.

ZEIF: I really feel like I have, you know? You know, people say once you turn 18, you don't really feel 18. I feel 35, honestly.

KELLY: Sam Zeif, thank you.

ZEIF: Of course.

KELLY: Sam Zeif - senior and survivor of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. He was part of this listening session today at the White House with President Trump. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.