2018-03-14 / Voice at the Shore

Florida school shooting hits home with local Jewish community

This must never happen again, says Parkland parent with local ties
By LYNN TRACHTMAN For Voice at the Shore

Lynn Trachtman (right) with her daughter, Fallon. Lynn Trachtman (right) with her daughter, Fallon. Every morning I wake up thinking I’ve had a nightmare about my daughter’s school getting shot up. But then, as I become fully awake, I realize: It really happened.

My daughter and I moved from Linwood, NJ, to Florida four years ago because the rest of my family lived here. I wanted to find a neighborhood comparable to what we had in Linwood. That is how we ended up in Parkland, a lovely suburban community with a large Jewish population. Parkland was known for having the best schools in the area and for being the safest city in Florida.

It was, until last month.

At 2:35 on February 14, I got a text message from my daughter,

Fallon, who is a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School. She said that her school was in lockdown. At the time, I was at a restaurant in Boca Raton with my 86-year-old mother, Doris Rand, who had never before seen me cry.

Former local resident Fallon Trachtman, a survivor of the Florida high school shooting, demonstrates with fellow students. Former local resident Fallon Trachtman, a survivor of the Florida high school shooting, demonstrates with fellow students. I immediately called friends— other MSD parents— to find out what was going on. They said they’d heard that two shooters were going through the school, shooting kids. (There was only one shooter, but we didn’t know that then).

I lost it. I started crying and my whole body started convulsing. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. But I was worried about upsetting my mom, so I pulled myself together. I called a friend to take my mom home and rushed off to Fallon’s school.

I spent the half-hour drive to the school on the phone with other parents, trying to find out what was going on, trying to find out if my daughter was alive. I hadn’t heard from her because her phone battery was out of charge (although I didn’t know that until the incident was over).

I found out that Fallon was locked in a storage closet along with her two best friends and some other students. The shooter had pulled the fire alarm to draw students out, making them easier targets. When people began screaming that there was a shooter, a teacher pushed Fallon and the other kids into a storage room with a closet and locked them in.

When I got to the school, I saw policemen standing outside with rifles drawn. I was terrified. My daughter was in a closet while someone was going from room to room, shooting people.

Like all MSD parents, I moved to Parkland for the good schools. We chose this community thinking it would be a good place for our kids to grow up. Now, here we all were, waiting to see if our kids would make it out of the school alive. Unable to protect them. Watching ambulances speed by and listening to news reports about how many people had been killed. Picturing our kids being shot.

At one point I got a message that Fallon was out of the school and in the parking lot. I immediately started thanking G-d that she was safe. But a minute later I heard that wasn’t true, that she was still in the school. By then, the gunman had left the school, but we didn’t know that. Parents were still waiting, still picturing the gunman going from room to room, shooting our kids.

Finally, the SWAT team came and got the remaining kids out of the school. Then, thank G-d, I got a call saying Fallon had been evacuated.

My story is nothing compared to those of the parents who lost their children. I can’t even imagine the depths of their grief.

Then there are the kids who saw their friends’ faces blown off right in front of them. Who were spattered by their friends’ blood. Who had to walk over the bodies of their dead friends on their way out of the school. High school students! How are those kids ever going to be able to get over this?

Over 3,000 students attend MSD. Fourteen lost their lives, as did 3 faculty members. Our community is dealing with incredible grief.

The first funeral I went to was for a boy named Alex Schachter. It was held in a Marriott ballroom, with 1,200- 1,500 people packed into the room like sardines. It was just horrendous that there we all were, mourning this boy. His brother read a beautiful poem Alex had written about how life was like a roller coaster, and his two elderly Jewish grandfathers spoke about what a wonderful kid he was. It was heartbreaking.

Every parent here is shell-shocked because we realize we can’t keep our kids safe. We are helpless, and we are sending our helpless children to schools where we can’t keep them safe. The other day I took a walk through my neighborhood and saw half a dozen middle school boys waiting for the school bus. My first thought was: Don’t get on that bus! How can your parents let you go to school, after what just happened? I felt like I was watching the Jews getting into the cattle cars during the Holocaust.

I’m not a political person. I’ve never been an activist for any kind of cause—until now. There is no reason for this kid to have had an assault rifle. If he’d used a handgun, he would have caused a lot less damage. Gun laws need to be stricter so this doesn’t happen again. In other countries, it has only taken one incident like this one to change gun laws, and horrific shootings like this have stopped.

Schools also need better security, with armed guards. Teachers should not have had to use their bodies to protect our children. And no, arming teachers is not the answer!

This incident is never going to un-happen. That is what the librarian from Sandy Hook told us when she came here and spoke to parents. Of course she’s right. We can’t control the past. We need to put our energy into making sure that things change.

On March 24, many Parkland families will be doing the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., demanding that our leaders and elected officials take immediate action to make our schools and children safe. There will also be marches held in cities around the world, including one in Philadelphia. I invite all of my New Jersey friends and former neighbors to show their solidarity by marching with us.

I am also very proud of the Parkland students (many of whom are Jewish) who are speaking out and demanding stricter gun laws and a ban on the use of assault weapons by civilians. These kids are so incredible, and they are making a difference—so much so that they are now perceived as a threat by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters, who have actually accused these kids of being actors paid by liberals to promote gun control!

The most outspoken of these kids have even gotten death threats. This is utterly despicable! These kids survived a school shooting—and now they are receiving death threats! There are no words. How can anyone cherish guns more than children’s lives?

Our country must be better than that. Our kids deserve better than that. We need to keep them safe. We need to stop school shootings. We need to make sure that the Parkland school shooting is the last one that our country will ever see. 

Lynn Trachtman is a Margate native and former Linwood resident who now resides in Parkland, FL. Her daughter, Fallon, attended Seaview Elementary and Belhaven Middle School in Linwood, and is now a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The Trachtmans are former members of Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield and were active with Chabad at the Shore and JCC.

Return to top