‘He ogled my chest until class was up’
FLORIDA shooting survivor Isabelle Robinson has warned commentators against suggesting children should be responsible for preventing a school shooting.
The 17-year-old hid with dozens of students and teachers in a closet for 90 minutes during the Parkland attack.
In the New York Times piece, entitled 'I Was Kind to Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends.', the Marjory Stoneman Douglas student said shooter Nikolas Cruz had expressed violent tendencies since the seventh grade, when he pegged an apple at her lower back, and then took visible pleasure as she cried in pain.
"The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors," she writes.
Robinson explains that she was assigned to tutor him in the eighth grade.
She said the aggressive behaviour continued: "I was forced to endure his cursing me out and ogling my chest until the hourlong class period was up."
But Robinson took her role as peer counsellor seriously, and continued to help him with his homework in an attempt to get him back on track.
"As a former peer counselor and current teacher's assistant, I strongly believe in and have seen the benefits of reaching out to those who need kindness most," she wrote.
"But students should not be expected to cure the ills of our genuinely troubled classmates, or even our friends, because we first and foremost go to school to learn.
"The implication that Cruz's mental health issues could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line."
She called on school authorities - rather than peers - to pinpoint potentially dangerous students and work to get them the help they need.
"No amount of kindness or compassion alone would have changed the person that Nikolas Cruz is and was, or the horrendous actions he perpetrated," Robinson writes. "That is a weak excuse for the failures of our school system, our government and our gun laws."
Last month, Robinson urged authorities to take politics out of the issue of gun control.
"This shouldn't be a fight between two different parties," she told CNN. "This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong.
"And even if we disagree on the way to fix it, we all just need to talk about it and stop being angry and stop slandering other people because that doesn't help anyone.
"I don't think pushing blame on anyone is a good idea because it just makes people more angry even if that blame seems to make sense."
Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the United States calling for gun law reform.
The Florida shooting was not the Robinson family's first encounter with evil.
A photograph of Isabelle as a toddler, being held by her mother, was found in the rubble after the 9/11 terror attack and made world headlines, sparking a mystery that would last 15 years.
The photo, which Isabelle's mother Jennifer had kept on her desk, was still intact when Australian News Corp photographer Nathan Edwards snapped a picture of it.
His picture was featured in the New York Post the next day.
Jennifer Robinson was away from New York during the attack, thanks to a last-minute decision to take a long weekend away.
As Edwards wondered whether the Robinsons had survived the attack, they too had seen the page in the Post, and tried over the years to find the photographer to thank him.
It wasn't until 2016 that the photographer and the Robinsons were united. They then learnt that the photo was taken when Jen took five-month-old Isabelle to her office the December before 9/11.
"When I first saw it I imagined that it had sat on a desk somewhere," Nathan said. "Everything that day, nothing had survived and to see a photograph that was relatively unscathed when everything around was just ground up dust - it just stopped me.
"There were several times over the past 14 years that I was telling myself maybe you will never find them. There were a few times when I said: 'It has been so long, you've tried so hard, you probably need to just give up and move along'.
"But something wouldn't let me give up. A little voice just kept saying: 'Keep going'."
- with Sarah Blake