While terror gripped the campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Wednesday, two JROTC students took it upon themselves to protect their classmates.
Zackary Walls and Colton Haab, members of their school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, recounted keeping their fellow students out of the line of fire and using a kevlar curtain in their classroom to make a shield that would have protected them from gunfire.
Walls, a senior who serves as a company commander, said he felt prompted to bring his group of 60 students into the classroom a few minutes early.
Roughly two minutes after entering, the fire alarm went off. But when Walls heard loud pops from afar, he recognized the sounds as gunshots and realized the “fire zone was exactly where the shooter was.”
The senior credited his intuition to a Coral Springs police program for youth in which he is enrolled. Leaders at the program taught him that school shooters may trigger fire alarms to bring students out into the open, as alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz did.
“I heard the first two or three shots, I knew it was gunshots, and I look back at all the kids behind me,” he recalled. “There’s 60 kids looking at me. What do I do? Where do I go?’ and I just yell, ‘get back in the classroom!'”
Walls and Haab, a JROTC captain, worked together to shelter students in the classroom, using desks and other large furniture to barricade the door. Then Haab saw the kevlar curtains used for exercises and had an idea.
“I brought those curtains out because I knew exactly what they were made of,” Haab said. “I never thought that we’d need them… but after yesterday, I’m glad that we had them.”
The cadets said students in the classroom armed themselves with fire extinguishers and other blunt objects, ready to fight should the shooter enter.
Cruz, the 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student accused of killing 17 people and injuring over a dozen others, is being held without bond at Broward County Jail.
Walls’ and Haab’s leadership was praised on Twitter.
This is what builds confidence in America’s future. Leaders already, saving lives and staying cool under fire.
— Susan Larson (@Swedesdottir) February 16, 2018
This is the most amazing story I’ve heard! Such brave young men! Their parents have to be so proud!
— Deplorable, not dumb (@_maryann123_) February 16, 2018
I did 4 years of JROTC and continue to be greatful for the training along BSA and even more for my dad and even more my relationship with God. Bravo to these two students applying their training.
— Ed Welch (@dsrved759) February 16, 2018
These young heroes are a shining example of what anyone is capable of given knowledge and training.
— Susan Wallis-Petty (@sgwallis8) February 16, 2018
I don’t know you young men- but I’m SO proud of you both! Great young men…thank you for all you did. Smart, Sensical, proactive, calming. ROTC is great also. ??
— VickieLFisher (@VickieLFisher) February 16, 2018
Well done guys!
You are true leaders & heroes!
YOU MAKE AMERICA PROUD‼??
— Lori Miller (@LoriMillerTX1) February 16, 2018
Amazing leadership and their training helped prepare them… I for one am glad to know these 2 guys will protect our Nation someday!
— Kim (@Kim_d_marlin) February 16, 2018