PARKLAND, Fla. - She was tired of catching herself staring blankly at the wall, so Hannah Karcinell sent a group text to her friends: "Hi, I'm thinking of having a thing at my house." Those friends invited their friends, and now she was waiting for everyone on her back patio, wearing a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cheerleading tank top. She heard a thud. Her whole body tensed.
"Should I put the food out now?" her mom called from the house. Hannah turned. The sound, she realized, had just been Jodi Karcinell pushing open the back door, which sticks.
An 18-year-old afraid of loud noises - is that who she is now? Four days had passed since a gunman entered her school with an AR-15 assault-style rifle, since Hannah walked outside for what she thought was a fire drill, since she heard the shots, since she followed an order to run.
She ran all the way to the Walmart down the road, where she hovered between the bags of ice and buckets of cheese balls, and, for a moment, felt safe. Then she learned the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been in the Walmart then, too.
"Not yet," she answered her mom about the food. It was the first time since the Valentine's Day shooting that her classmates were getting together somewhere that wasn't a vigil, rally or planning meeting for a trip to Tallahassee to take on their legislators. In public, they had presented a united front: angry, motivated, brashly political. Here, she hoped they could be what they really are: kids, who had been through an unbelievable trauma, trying to figure out how they feel.
The first to arrive was her friend Kate Keane, still in the black dress she wore to 15-year-old Luke Hoyer's visitation. She apologized for coming early. "I would rather not be alone," she said.
In walked Jose Iglesias, who just last week gave a presentation on school shootings in his peer-mentoring class. One of the slides said, "Both children and adults involved in the incident were in high demand for counseling as well as new reports of drug and alcohol abuse, family problems, and depression." The first night after the attack, the shooter lurked in his dreams. Afraid that might happen again, he had slept a total of 10 hours in the four days since.
Here came Dimitri Hoth, who had slept OK, but only because he had asked his mother, for the first time since he was a toddler, if he could sleep in her bed.
Then Carly Novell arrived. On the morning after the shooting, she tweeted to Fox News host Tomi Lahren, "I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours...You don't know how it felt." But what she mostly felt now was numb, because as her tweet amassed more than 890,000 likes, she did interviews with CNN, "Inside Edition" and more media outlets than she could keep track of. When the cameras turned off, she got into her mom's SUV, shut the door, and cried.
"Want cheddar biscuits?" Hannah asked them.
It was a Sunday, but they weren't going to school the next day, or any day for at least a week. Crime scene tape still clung to the palm trees outside Douglas, a public school that used to count 3,208 students. Now there are 3,194. The school's fence was lined with 17 crosses built by a carpenter from Illinois who drove through a snowstorm to bring them here. In the past six months, he brought crosses to Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas. Before that, to Orlando, Florida, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and Virginia Tech.
There were more memorials up the road at the city's Pine Trails Park, where the upcoming farmers market and screening of "Despicable Me 3" had been canceled indefinitely. Visitors brought gifts to lay beneath the photos of the teachers and teenagers killed: carnations and plush animals from the ones who didn't know them; Cheez-It crackers and cans of Copenhagen tobacco dip from the ones who did.
At Hannah's house, where the group had grown to 14 students, they talked about what it meant to be what the news called a "survivor." They could now count themselves among the more than 150,000 students who have experienced a school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
But Hannah and most of her friends had been able to hide or flee, and for that they felt both relieved and guilty, determined to seize the attention placed on them and unsure of how they are supposed to grieve.
They were used to retreating to their phones. But it was on Snapchat that they had seen videos of their classmates' bleeding bodies. And on Instagram and Twitter, their expressions of outrage were mocked and critiqued. People accused them of being professional "crisis actors" posing as students.
"It's really not that surprising," said Robert Bonczek, sitting on Hannah's living room rug. "With every tragedy, people make conspiracies." He had spent two hours in a closet with 15 other students, unable to answer the frantic calls from their parents because they were afraid that making noise might alert the shooter to their hiding spot.
"Have you guys been getting DMs from random people on Twitter?" asked Destiny Perez. They all nodded. She explained how a stranger had messaged her expressing his condolences. She thanked him for his support. Then he said: "Did you see any dead bodies?"
It was really getting to her. "Are you kidding me," she said. "I'm literally on my way to a funeral . . . and it's like, no, who are you?"
In the kitchen, the conversation turned to a topic they might have obsessed over before all this, when their lives were ruled by club commitments, impending AP tests and college acceptance letters. "Do you guys know when prom tickets are being sold?" No one did.
In two days, on Tuesday, some of them would be on one of three charter buses bound for Tallahassee, Florida, buses filled with 100 students, chaperons and sleeping bags. The plan was to spend the night at Florida State University on Red Cross cots, wake up at 6:30 a.m., head to the Capitol and meet with more than 40 state lawmakers.
"Just a week ago we were all just chilling at home," the student organizing the trip would remind them, before instructing them to wear Douglas T-shirts instead of dressing up. They wanted to remind the politicians that they are kids.
Hannah wasn't going. She wanted to, but if she went, she wouldn't make it back in time for the funeral of senior Nick Dworet.
"You'll never forgive yourself," her mom had said, but maybe she already wouldn't.
Hannah and Nick had been close during freshman year, when she had just moved to Parkland from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There, she had been tormented by other students for being biracial and Jewish; here, she blended in. Nick, an attractive blonde boy in her Earth-space science class, would come over to her house after school to work on their homework.
But they had grown apart, and she doesn't remember why. That's high school. This year, they were in government class together and didn't talk much. But a few weeks ago, when he came back to class after the ceremony where athletes commit to colleges, Hannah had joined in the clapping for him. He was going to be a swimmer at the University of Indianapolis.
Now, when she walked into her room, she could see him sitting on the edge of her bed, playing music from her MacBook. He liked David Bowie, she remembered. "Heroes," "Ziggy Stardust" and "Changes," the song about children being "quite aware what they're going through."
Hannah's phone rang. Another classmate was at her neighborhood's locked front gate, needing to be buzzed in. Startled by the noise, they grew quiet.
"Did you guys even hear the 'Code Red?' " Robert asked.
Then they were all talking over each other.
"No, I heard the fire alarm."
"I heard the fire alarm and then the gunshots."
"And then I lost Destiny."
"I looked and you guys were gone."
Louder and louder their voices rose in Hannah's living room until, for the first time, she made hers the loudest. "And that's why I want to go to the prison, and ask him: 'Why?' "
"I'll go with you," her friend said. Then she noticed the yearbooks on the coffee table. Hannah had set them out. They flipped to the page where they knew Nikolas Cruz's photo would be. He was in the bottom row, staring out at them, dressed in a white Douglas sweater. He was smiling.
After a few minutes, Hannah slammed the book shut. She stood up, turned on the TV and opened Netflix. The next day, as her friends packed for Tallahassee, she would decide to go to one of the rallies. She would make a sign that said, "I Want Change." She would end up collapsing against her mom on the sidewalk, unable to stop crying.
"Can we watch, like, Disney?" her friend Rachel Pilicer asked. "Or 'Nemo' or something?"
Hannah clicked until she saw what she was looking for, "High School Musical 2." The cameras zoomed in on a school with gleaming hallways, championship banners and students so happy they were dancing. The movie, released when they were in the second grade, had been a preview of what high school might be. Hannah turned up the volume, dropped down on the couch, and mouthed the words.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea - Hockey players from Finland were circling with the puck, finishing off the final seconds of a win against Germany, and then the clock hit zero. Some arena rock music came on. Players filed into lines for handshakes. A public-address announcer ran through the final statistics, and slowly, the fans filed out, leaving the arena empty, except for all the things left behind.
"OK, everybody in position," a cleaning manager told about 20 elderly workers, and then it was time for the next act at the Gangneung Hockey Center, just one of the Winter Olympics venues where a South Korean societal crisis hides in plain sight.
Because as the fans neared the exits, a new set of people was entering the arena.
The man who walked toward Section 212, holding a plastic bag, picking up Coke bottles and potato chip packaging, was 67.
The woman who headed toward Section 214, using a hand rag to clean the seats, scrubbing away shoe tracks and smeared chocolate, was 68.
The man who cleaned Section 110, mopping the aisles, was 78.
The man who helped clean the bathrooms, wiping the floors and stocking the toilet paper, was 82.
And they had to move quickly. In 90 minutes, the arena doors would reopen, and another hockey game would start. All fans would notice was a clean arena.
"Knees. Shoulders. It all hurts," said one worker, Lee Seon-dae, 68. "I'm too tired to do this."
Every nation depends on its own version of low-wage labor, but in South Korea, there is a twist: Those workers increasingly tend to come from the very generation that spearheaded the country's 65-year rise to prosperity. As it has aged, that generation has become drastically more vulnerable and impoverished than the rest of the country, sliding backward because of a meager safety net and diminishing support from their children. Nearly half of South Korean seniors now live in relative poverty - the highest rate, by far, in the industrialized world. As a result, at a time when they should be retired, they have gone looking for minimum-wage work.
"The old generation of this country might see the situation as unfair," said Lee Jun-young, a professor of social welfare at the University of Seoul. "They worked very hard to build the nation when they were young, but many of them are now a living a very poor life."
The vulnerability of South Korea's seniors speaks to a rapid shift in the way this country cares for and thinks about it its elderly. For previous generations, there was little need to think about a pension or retirement savings; children were the pension, all but guaranteed to support and often live with their parents as they aged.
But in modern-day, achievement-obsessed Korea, that social contract has frayed. A minority of children, compared with 90 percent two decades ago, now think they should take care of their parents. Adult children tend to chase jobs and prosperity in large cities, mostly Seoul, and in rural areas such as Gangwon Province, the region hosting the Olympics, those without familial support depend mostly on measly government pensions - as little as $200 per month.
"Because of the weak pension system, retired people have no other way but to look for work," said Lee Jae-hun, a researcher at the Public Policy Institute for People, in Seoul. "Without additional income, it's impossible to carry on living for another thirty-some years."
Those seniors rarely find good-paying jobs. They supervise parking lots, drive taxis, work as security guards or couriers. In Seoul, shelters that offer free lunches have lines composed almost entirely of the elderly. And here in Pyeongchang, those older people have taken on some of the toughest behind-the-scene jobs at the Olympics. At the Gangneung Hockey Center, a younger supervisor told workers not to speak to reporters and said media members needed a permit to do so. But twelve workers employed at four venues who spoke with the Post portrayed a difficult job - eight hour shifts, spent mostly on their feet - that also evoked, for some, a bit of pride.
"It is a national event, but the work is really hard for me," said Kim Seung-ok, 71, who cleans bathrooms at the short track speed skating venue. "I'm not sure if I can last until the end."
Many of the arena workers were hired by Seoul-based TNS Property Management, which, in the months before the Games, advertised the temporary jobs by placing help-wanted notices in community newspapers and on the web sites of hiking clubs, which are popular in mountainous Gangwon Province. The company says its Olympic workforce is composed most prominently of people in their 60s; it looked for younger workers, too, but struggled to find and retain them.
"We didn't look just for old people," said H.L. Lee, a TNS deputy director. "We tried to choose people living close by, and also looked at whether they can do this cleaning job. After looking at it the first day, we evaluate whether the work is too much for them. If it is, we recommend for them not to do it."
One of the people who responded to the job notice was Song Jeong-eum, 82, who during these Olympics has cleaned bathrooms at the Gangneung Hockey Center. He lives 15 minutes from the arena, with his wife, in a home tucked in an alleyway just off a main thoroughfare. During his career, he'd driven taxis, helped to manufacture tractors, and worked at a large-scale cabbage farm. He'd last held a job more than 10 years ago, doing manual labor at a construction site.
But then, he decided to go back to work.
He was healthy, he told himself, and for that he was grateful. Plus, the work would give him something to do, other than ride his bike and watch television. His sons lived far away. He'd been married to his wife for 55 years - "too long," he said. About half of his close friends were no longer alive.
"I'm working because I'm healthy," he said.
But, he said, there were other reasons too. When he was younger, he'd invested in his children - spending on education - not saving for retirement. "All Koreans do that," he said. He and his wife now lived on $600 per month - half from a national pension fund, another half sent from his kids. How would he and his wife cope if their medical expenses escalated? What if he couldn't work then? "The more money the better," he said one afternoon, speaking in his living room. "Of course I'm worried about the future.
And then, he looked at the clock. It was time to go. He got into his car and headed for the arena, picking up four elderly workers along the way. When they arrived, Song changed into his vest, which said "Cleaning Services," and grabbed a cleaning cart with detergent, a mop, brushes, spray bottles, and industrial-sized rolls of toilet paper. The first of two hockey games that day had ended an hour ago.
On the ice, a Zamboni was running.
In the stands, workers were out with their mops.
Soon, fans would be back in the arena.
Song took his cart, and headed toward the first restroom.