A junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said that her best friend’s advice may have saved her life as she was fleeing a gunman who opened fire in her classroom on Valentine’s Day.
Samantha Grady told “Today” hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on Thursday, Feb. 15, that she was together with her friend in a Holocaust class when the shooter started firing shots through the glass of the locked classroom door.
She said her friend pushed her toward a bookshelf, where with a number of other students, they huddled there together. Some moved a nearby cabinet in front of them as a shield.
“We all kind of huddled there together,” Grady said in a live interview. “We all clamped really close, tightly together.”
“He shot quite a few bullets into the glass and it hit quite a few students behind me.”
Her friend, who has not yet been identified, gave her a piece of advice that may have saved her from being fatally shot.
She suggested that Grady take a book from the bookshelf and hold it up to her face to protect herself from the flying bullets.
“It was a tiny book, but I took a book and I held it up.
“I believe, maybe, the book kind of deterred some of the bullets, so it didn’t hit me so badly,” she said.
“She was the one who gave me the idea. She definitely helped me a lot.”
Grady fought back tears when Guthrie asked if she knew what had happened to her friend.
“She didn’t make it,” she said.
Grady was able to run from the classroom and call her parents to tell them to meet her at the hospital.
The suspected gunman, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, initially reported by media as Nicolas de Jesus Cruz, was a former student of the school before he was expelled last year for “disciplinary reasons,” according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
“Our investigators began dissecting social media,” Israel told reporters. “Some of the things that come to mind are very, very disturbing.”
Cruz’s attorney, Gordon Weeke, called his client a “deeply disturbed, emotionally broken” person who has been struggling with mental health issues for some time.
He said that Cruz has now been placed on suicide watch while held without bond at the main Broward County jail.
Cruz and his brother were adopted, but both of their adoptive parents died. The mother has just recently passed away in November from pneumonia.
Cruz was taken in by the family of a friend and had been taking adult general educational development (GED) classes after being expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
According to a probable cause report, Cruz admitted to being the gunman in an interview with police, CNN reports.
He was arrested after fleeing into a nearby neighborhood and has now been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for the staff and students who died from the mass shooting.
Grady was advised to share about her experience often so she wouldn’t “have nightmares about it,” she said.
“So whenever the opportunity came, whenever someone asked, I freely talked about it,” she said. “Because I don’t want nightmares.”