A Banbridge woman has told of the panicked phonecalls she made to find out her children were safe during last week’s mass shooting at a school in Florida.
Two of Jill Crory’s three children – Conor (14) and Caitlin (16) – were on campus when the attack took place on Valentine’s Day.
Nikolas Cruz – a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – is in police custody after 17 people were killed at the school on Valentine’s Day.
Mrs Crory’s son Conor was on the third floor of the Freshman building, which is where the lone gunman struck.
The Banbridge woman who has been living in Florida for 25 years with her husband Michael who is also originally from Banbridge told of her frantic attempts to contact both her children when she learnt of the attack.
Mrs Crory (nee Mulligan) said: “My son Conor, who I knew would be in the Freshman building, didn’t have his phone with him so I started trying to reach my daughter Caitlin. She finally picked the phone up and whispered ‘Mom, I’m in a closet, there’s an active shooter, it’s a code red, I can’t talk’, then she hung up.
“They’re not allowed to use their phones in case the shooter obviously hears. She was in a different building but it was all very hectic.
“I knew at that stage she was safe, but I had no way of contacting Conor.”
She said she eventually contacted the mother of another student in the Freshman building who was able to tell her that SWAT team had brought students to safety.
“I asked her could she please, please have her daughter (Emerson) find Conor. About 10 minutes later she texted me back to say that Conor was with Emerson, so he was safe.”
Jill added that there whilst there was relief at knowing her children were safe, there was incredible pain knowing what her children and other children had gone through.
Mrs Crory went on to say that the gun laws in America need to change: “Coming from Northern Ireland, I don’t like guns.
“I’ve never liked guns. I’ve seen how our community back home was devastated for many years.”
With this shooting, the latest in a long line of horrific incidents in America, Jill said she hopes that change might finally happen with regards gun regulations.
“I’m hoping and praying this is it,” she said.
“Teenagers have a voice, there is a powerful movement starting in Stoneman Douglas.
“They are going to the state capital at the end of this week and next month they are going to march on Washington.
“These kids will not be silenced.
“These kids know all about the laws, they know their Senators and they are not going to accept this anymore, they have a voice and they are going to use it.”