Florida Shooting Survivor Shares What He's Hoping To Hear In Meeting With Trump
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
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 are at the White House now for a listening session with President Trump. Among them is 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 cellphone, 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 was going to be a fake practice training. So some people were telling me, it's fake, don't worry, we're all going to be OK. 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. From the outside, the class appeared empty. And after sitting there for about 10 minutes, I realized that my little brother was above me.
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 - that said, are the cops here? Next text, 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, when they busted that door down. But when I saw them, it was the most relief I had 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 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'd ever given anyone.
ZEIF: Told him I loved him, and can't believe this. And he told me what he had seen. I saw a glimpse of my coach, Aaron Feis, on the ground, and that was about it. 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, you said. I can't imagine. And I'm so sorry for what he and you and all of you have gone through.
ZEIF: Me too.
KELLY: And it's a funny thing, you know, when you're in high school and everything is about your friends to realize that when something like this happens, the person you really want to make sure is OK is your baby brother. That's the one you're texting.
ZEIF: Yeah, my little man.
KELLY: Is your brother here on this trip to Washington with you?
ZEIF: No, he's not. This is not really his type of thing. Honestly, not really my type of thing, either. But I'm here to speak for the people who can't anymore.
KELLY: How did this trip come about?
ZEIF: I just got a call one morning from an unknown number, and they said, hey, this is the White House. And I said, what?
ZEIF: And then they texted me their credentials. They put this together. I'm sitting on a bus right now with people from my home, from Parkland.
KELLY: Do you know who's going to be in this meeting you're headed to at the White House?
ZEIF: I believe the president and the vice president, what I know for sure.
KELLY: What is the message that you're taking to the president and the vice president today?
ZEIF: Well, I'm not going to give out too much before I go in there, but we're going to make change, and we need him to do that. I'm here for those who can't be here because I know if they were, if they could, they would be.
KELLY: I know you don't want to - you said you don't want to get into too many specifics before you go in there 'cause it's a message you're delivering to the president. But is there something specific that you need to hear him say?
ZEIF: I need to hear him say - I need to hear him say - I don't know. I can't imagine what he's going to say. I need to hear him say that he's in and he's got us. And he has the power to make change. Granted, I don't, but now I'm being connected with him. Hopefully I can (unintelligible) some of that power in him to make change.
KELLY: Were you a supporter of President Trump? I mean, I know you're too young to vote, but is this somebody whose politics you liked going in?
ZEIF: I have not been a supporter. But, I mean, this - me and a lot of my friends are turning - I've just turned 18. We're going to be 18 this year, and this could make us supporters.
KELLY: If you see the leadership that you're walking into the White House looking for today?
ZEIF: If he can do the right thing and change the world like we want to then I think it would turn me into a Trump supporter, if he could do this for us and for the world so that nobody has to experience what we went through.
KELLY: Sam, thank you so much for taking the time to talk.
ZEIF: Thank you. Be safe. Be strong - never again.
KELLY: That's Sam Zeif, a senior, a survivor of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. He's one of the students meeting today with President Trump. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.