Frantic relatives describe terror of Florida school shooting: "My niece was hiding in a closet"
The terror that gripped Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during Wednesday’s fatal shooting extended to parents and relatives who frantically communicated with their loved ones inside the school.
Michael Udine, County Commissioner of Broward County, has a daughter and a niece that attend the Parkland, Florida, school. He tells PEOPLE he first heard about the shooting when his daughter, a senior, texted him.
“My niece was hiding in a closet with her teachers until the incident was resolved,” he says. “It’s just scary that this can happen in your backyard.”
Lisette Rozenblatt, whose daughter attends the school, tells PEOPLE she was with her husband when their daughter texted them that there was a shooter in the building.
“She kept texting me and she kept saying she was fine, and she was hiding,” Rozenblatt says. “She told me to please call the police because somebody was hurt, and she kept hearing that person crying out for help.”
Rozenblatt says that the students heard a fire alarm at about the same time as shots rang out, and that her daughter’s teacher, noting there had been a fire drill earlier in the day, instructed students not to leave the classroom despite the fire alarm.
“Thank God for that teacher who said do not leave this room,” she says.
She adds, “Some kids ran out and they saw police officers and they heard gunshots, and it was just a crazy scene and they ran back into the classroom. Those kids were stuck in the classrooms, locked away.”
Authorities have not confirmed the number of people dead, but Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie announced there are “numerous fatalities.”
The Broward County Sheriff’s office announced there were “14 victims” of the shooting, but made no distinction between injured victims and potential fatalities. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference that 14 people were transported to hospitals with varying degrees of wounds.
Israel said the suspect “had attended the school previously” and is about 18 years old, and that he was outside and inside at various times.
Meanwhile, the community is left to grapple with the trauma. Rozenblatt says her family knows someone who was shot, and says her daughter is in “a petrified state.”
She expressed shock that such violence could take place in Parkland, a Fort Lauderdale suburb of about 30,000 people which according to CNN was named Florida’s safest city last year in an analysis by the Washington-based National Council for Home Safety and Security, a home security industry trade association.
“It’s unreal when you live in a small-town neighborhood and this kind of thing happens.”