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Parkland shooting survivor visits San Diego for book tour

Posted at 11:00 PM, Jun 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-03 08:14:32-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)— Two Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School alumni were in San Diego for a book tour Sunday evening. Sofie Whitney and Brendan Duff shared details of the most horrific moments of their lives — the 2018 Parkland School Shooting. They were two of several authors who wrote the New York Times Best Seller, "Glimmer of Hope."

The event was part of a special talk series called "Community Divided: Humanity United," hosted by the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center.

"We may have different faiths or cultures. We may have different political perspectives. At the heart of it all of it we are human," CEO of the Lauren Family Jewish Community Center, Betzy Lynch said. "Valuing that human life and value in that, and other human beings is more important than any difference amongst any of us."

Valentines Day 2018 was supposed to be a celebration of love. But for Sofie Whitney, it was anything but love.

"Awful. Like it was my worst nightmare... it was everyone's worst nightmare," Whitney said.

At the time, Whitney was a senior at Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She was in drama class when a gunman committed the worst school shooting in the history of the country. Seventeen students and staff lost their lives.

"It was unfair that so many people had experienced such a loss, and so many people experienced such trauma, and that it wasn't abnormal," Whitney said.

It was not abnormal then. And not abnormal now. Mass shootings, unfortunately, are still a part of the American story.

"We just need to collectively remind ourselves that this is a uniquely American problem, so we need to address this as Americans. Not as one side of the political spectrum or the other," Brendan Duff said.

Duff had graduated from Stonemason Douglas High School the year prior. He heard about the tragedy from his younger brother, who survived the shooting. The Communication student at Elon University immediately flew home, and became the spokesperson for what later became the "March for Our Lives."

"It's our crazy, messed up minds somehow led to this incredible movement forming from just a bunch of kids," Whitney said.

Months following the tragedy, survivors did countless interviews. They started the "March for Our Lives" -- the campaign to fight against gun violence. They spoke to every publication, every station, and anyone who would listen. They did not stop until the media attention suddenly faded. The next stage was their book, "Glimmer of Hope."

"With the book, we had a lot more time to streamline our process, and figure out what we wanted to include and how we wanted to tell our story," Duff said.

He and Whitney collaborated on the chapter titled "Becoming a Team." In it, they wrote stories about survivors and victims. Duff wore several bracelets on his arms, each of them honoring the fallen. 

"We take little parts of these people with us," Duff said. "It doesn't just stop when the tragedy is over. It doesn't just stop when the trigger is pulled. This is something that we take with us, and so we take them with us physically too."

Audience members were moved by the young adults' presentations. 72-year-old Lynne Jett from Vista went home with a signed copy of the New York Times Best Seller.

"We can't let this happen anymore. We can't let our children sacrifice. That's why I am here," Jett said in tears. "If they are willing to stand, I am certainly willing to listen. And I am hopeful that it gives me energy for the future."