PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School junior Daniela Menescal, 17, was in her Holocaust history class in the Freshman Building on February 14th when she heard shots.
At first, she though it was a drill. She hid behind a filing cabinet as shots rang out near her in the classroom. Then came the pain.
“I felt a pain in my back as if a paintball hit me and I was confused because I thought it was a drill and they were hitting us with paintballs,” she said.
It wasn’t paintballs. She got hit with shrapnel and started bleeding. Six of her classmates were injured and two died — Nicholas Dworet and Helena Ramsey.
“There were Nick and Helena and they never stood up and I was kind of confused because I never thought I was going to see a dead body like that so close to me,” Menescal said.
As she left the classroom she saw two more dead bodies and others injured. Doctors patched up Daniela’s physical wounds at a hospital.
“It’s 3 scars that I’ll have for my life,” she said.
But she’s still dealing with the emotional scars.
“I think about it everyday. It just comes randomly,” she said. “Sometimes when I hear a loud noise, it just triggers it.”
Menescal has returned to school and is receiving counseling. But life is not the same.
“I used to love seeing my friends and just going to learn and now I don’t even want to go any more,” she admitted. “I don’t feel motivated. I don’t feel protected.”
Daniela, her mom and their attorney, Pat Lawlor, want a fund established to pay for ongoing mental health counseling for students and staff at the school.
“The worst thing would be is somebody 4 or 5 years from now needs to get counseling because they have a trigger and they don’t have their insurance or the insurance won’t cover it,” Lawlor said.
Lawlor believes the state of Florida should pay for the counseling and it should be available to victims from now and into the future wherever they are across the US.
“If it’s not put together because it’s too difficult, I’m not going to stand for it because it has to be done,” he said.
He also believes many of the students and staff from the school are suffering from post traumatic stress. He wants to see a program where — just like soldiers who get treatment for PTSD at VA hospitals — victims can have a similar benefit whenever and wherever they might need it.
Daniela feels some guilt about not being able to save her classmates. She also knows that her healing will take time and lots of help from trained therapists.
“It’s different in every person so I don’t know if I’ll be worse in a couple of years or if it will trigger me more as time goes by,” she said.