When Brooke Harrison picked up her backpack Sunday during orientation day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there were two things different about it. A blue name tag made out of tape and a bullet hole near the bottom.
“(The bullet) could have gone through my backpack, but I’m pretty sure it just grazed it or slightly passed it. The fact that my backpack was so close to me is really mind blowing,” Brooke said.
It was left in her freshman classroom where five classmates were shot. Three of them died: Alyssa Alhadeff, Alex Schachter and Alaina Petty. Seventeen people died in total.
“We know how lucky we are,” said Brooke’s mom, Denise Harrison. “From the stories we already heard in the classroom, we go pick up the backpack we saw this. Everyday, we’re saying to ourselves, we’re so lucky.”
On Wednesday, Brooke and the student body return to campus.
“It’s going to be sad because I’m going to remember the fact that three of my classmates won’t be able to go back to school and that three of them won’t be able to see their friends and see that everyone is okay,” Brooke said.
Her parents aren’t worried about Wednesday or the next day. They know security will be tight when they return, but beyond that there's uncertainty.
“One of the greater concerns that we have is, what happens next?” said Robert Harrison, Brooke’s dad. “When the news cycle ended and six months have gone by, what actions will have been taken to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again? At this school or any other.”
For starters, they want more armed school resource officers and a review of code red protocol.
“To give ourselves as parents, to give us the ability to know when you drop your kid off, they’re going to be safe,” Harrison said.
On top of the friends they lost, they lost their innocence. Every hug and every “I love you” means more now.
“Time just feels more precious now. It feels like we have to reaffirm that. I know they love me, and I know I love them, but it feels like we need to say it more now,” Brooke said.
Brooke’s parents have been through tragedy before. They lived just two blocks away from the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attack.