Parkland shooting hits close to home for area students

- Stoneman Douglas High School massacre survivor Jared Block was on a video chat with a group of students from the Lower Merion Area Hebrew High School. The Cherry Hill native told of his harrowing ordeal hiding in a closet with classmates before the SWAT team members broke down the door.

"They just told us to run as fast as we could outside of the school, outside of the building and I just never looked back," Block said. 

The 16-year-old’s message was one of survival, hope and encouragement.

“I’m still alive and I’m going to be the voice for the 17 people who can’t,” Block explained.

The teen appeared alongside his parents. The audience was filled with kids his age who see a bit of themselves in this survivor, now motivated to help create change. People like 17-year-old Hana Kenworthy.

“We need to speak up for people who don’t have a voice. That’s what Jared said and that’s what everyone needs to do,” Hana explained.

“What I took away is that it can happen in any community and it feels abstract before it actually happens,” 15-year-old Eli Werbach said.

Like Eli, Sidney Schur says she watched coverage of the shooting, but video chatting with Jared is what really brought the horror home.

“I already feel motivated to write letters and go out to marches just after hearing that,” Sidney said.

“I’m extremely proud of my nephew,” Block’s aunt, Kami Verne, stated.

Jared’s aunt lives in the area. The conversation was her idea. Leaning on Jared’s strength to help motivate others.

“To take this moment and not just want to run away from it, but to take this moment and do something about it. To make a change,” said Verne.

The students said they plan to continue the dialogue. They say they want to walk in the student led national March For Our Lives in March. 
 

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