The smartphone-wielding students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School told the story of the shooting they survived by broadcasting what they saw to the world.

Those same students also were bombarded with horrific images, through those same phones, sometimes while still hiding in classrooms.

Demitri Hoth, a 17-year-old senior, was one of those students. He showed us how he experienced the Parkland, Fla., shooting and the student-led gun-control movement that followed through texts, tweets, Facebook and Snapchat. (The Washington Post has reproduced the text messages and removed the names and identifying details of participants at their request, in order to protect their privacy.)

(Group chat excerpt from the day of the shooting, provided by Demitri Hoth)

“I have a group chat in particular where we have literally hundreds and hundreds of messages. ‘Guys, I can't believe this happened, this is so surreal all these people are dead, like what is this, can't even think anymore.’ It’s been really good to have that kind of net you could just fall back onto.”

(Group chat excerpt provided by Demitri Hoth)

“During the shooting, having a phone was a double-edged sword. You had access to information, what was happening in real time in terms of where the shooter was, if they had apprehended them or not.”

(Group chat excerpt provided by Demitri Hoth)

“We were letting our parents know that we were okay, sending messages to our parents. Kind of having that communication to the outside.”

Social videos circulated among students the day of the attack. (Alexander Ball, Caleb King)

“On the other edge, I guess, you could say it was very, very scary, because we were receiving videos on Snapchat: People on the floor dead. People being shot, people that were already shot, people that were bleeding out.”

(Group chat excerpt provided by Demitri Hoth)

“And then, someone shows you, ‘Oh my God, look at this, guys.’ And the video that they’re showing happened to be your friend that's dead on the floor. And you don't really realize that until the day after.”

(Group chat excerpt provided by Demitri Hoth)

“We were looking for [my friend Carmen Schentrup that night], trying to locate her because her family couldn't locate her. We were watching the video, and we didn't know it was her; we were still looking for her.”

“Those are scenes of war. You have a military-grade weapon that’s shooting bullets through doors and through walls, [shooting] people in the head, and they're just dead on the floor or dead in the hallway. That's not something that you should have to see, especially in a school.”

(Excerpt from Emma González’s speech. Reuters)

“When everything started to get in the public eye, a lot of people kind of stopped [texting], at least in my group chat.

It [became] people just advocating. Not texting about what happened and more, ‘Let's make some change.’ We have to pay attention, we have to start doing something because stuff like this that you see should never be seen.”

(Tweet from @RedNationRising)

“There was this one Twitter page called Red Nation Rising. First of all, they spelled my name wrong, so shame on them. They compared me to Hitler. It was really funny. I showed my mom, I showed my teacher at school; they were like, laughing. The ignorance that these people have and display is so astounding to me. You wouldn't think that this is even possible. But it is! We all have just been laughing it off because you can't take these things seriously.”

(Facebook message excerpt provided by Demitri Hoth)

“I had this one guy message me on Facebook. He was like, ‘I don't want to bash you, but I want to question as to why you're saying these things.’ ”

(Facebook message excerpt provided by Demitri Hoth)

“I very politely responded: My school, the program we have, taught me this way.”

(Video of Demitri Hoth / Alice Li and Whitney Shefte)

“I'm now using Twitter as a means of relaying my thoughts as well as the things that I think are important for people to know. I think a lot of my peers have turned to Twitter [as] their own media, their own way to get their message out.”

Students walk out of school. (Danielle Trevizani, Ali Wax)

As students around the country staged walk-outs after Parkland, “I was really glad to see that, at the same time they were doing that as an act of solidarity, it was also a form of protest. The hashtags that they’re using are the same. It's #NeverAgain, #MarchForOurLives. It goes to show the universality of the message that we at MSD have come up with.”

(Tweet from @Oprah)

“We found out that Oprah had matched George [and Amal] Clooney's donation when we were on the bus to Tallahassee. We were very excited, very rowdy. They’re allowing us the opportunity to go and speak at the national level.”

(Mike Stocker / Associated Press)

“I was very nervous and very anxious about going back to school. I wasn't really sure what emotions I would feel. Carmen Schentrup was in two of my classes. So that was really difficult. I was very apprehensive about going to those classes.”

(Demitri Hoth)

On the first day back, “We did an activity where a teacher had a ball of yarn and she threw the ball of yarn to us. We had to say something, hold on to the string and then throw the ball. I said I was really thankful and glad that we were able to come together as a family and that we're able to be here for each other.

At the end, there was this kind of interwoven web of the string and basically it [represented] that we are all connected and we can count on each other.”

About this story

This project was written and reported by Abby Ohlheiser and Kayla Epstein. Video reporter Alice Li and digital video editors Patrick Martin and Elyse Samuels contributed to this report. Message illustrations by Eddie Alvarez. Design and development by Jake Crump.


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