United by mass killings, the group sat down for breakfast.
It was a change of scenery for James Shaw Jr., who wrestled an AR-15 from a gunman in a Waffle House in Tennessee last month, which authorities said likely stopped the spree that left four people dead.
The 29-year-old found himself in Florida on Saturday, trading the Waffle House for a Denny’s with some company — students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
“[T]he Most Legendary Breakfast ive ever had in my life,” Emma González said on Twitter afterward.
It was in response to a similarly glowing sign of affection.
“I met one of my heros today,” Shaw wrote on Twitter, with a photo of him posing with González and a blue teddy bear. “Meeting the young adults of the Parkland incident so much fire and inspiration in their eyes was a great joy,” he said in a later tweet.
There were some other mass shootings between the Feb. 14 massacre at Douglas High School in Florida and the April 22 diner killings in Antioch, outside Nashville.
But those two incidents have stirred the American public in deep yet different ways.
The shooting of 17 people in Parkland ignited unrelenting debate over the role of firearms in American life, renewed calls for gun-control measures and unleashed student activism led by González and others. That activism has caught on in ways rarely seen since the Vietnam War.
The Waffle House killing, by contrast, is a story of heroism and small miracles in a mass shooting — a tragedy rarely ended with bystander intervention. In a brief lull during the killings, Shaw rushed the gunman and tore away his rifle. The piping hot barrel burned his hands. The gunman then fled and was apprehended a day later by authorities.
González has been perhaps the most prominent figure among the Parkland students, joined by David Hogg. He was also on hand for the breakfast that included more than a dozen people who appear to be students.
“Wow just, wow,” Hogg wrote on Twitter after the breakfast, “lots of work ahead but the young people will win.”
Shaw, a father of two, harnessed his fame into a GoFundMe drive for the Waffle House victims hours after the incident occurred.
He started with a modest goal of $15,000. But his story was covered across the world, and the world responded in kind. He has raised more than $240,000 in 20 days.
Shaw’s story is resonating. Donations were still coming in as this article was written.
But he seems focused to keep going with his story beyond the drive.
“Thank you great meeting you all, let’s keep inspiring and bringing ppl together,” he wrote on Twitter to the students.