The survivor of a school shooting in Maryland hopes to raise enough money to take several of her classmates to visit the site of another tragic shooting — Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The trip is the brainchild of Jaxon O’Mara, 17, a student Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County who said she wants to acknowledge a bond the two schools have formed over common tragedy, grief and support.
O’Mara was home sick the day one of her classmates showed up at Great Mills High School on March 20 with a gun.
She watched in horror via Snapchat as events unfolded that morning before the first bell rang.
Students at Great Mills were in lockdown. One student was injured and another, O’Mara’s family friend Jaelynn Willey, 16, was killed. The gunman, a 17-year-old student, shot himself during a confrontation with the school’s resource officer, according to the local sheriff’s office.
Though O’Mara was physically safe, the incident left emotional scars. When the school reopened, she and other students were reminded of the bloodshed every time they walked the hallways, and since the incident, she said, “I am always scared. I am always scared.”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas had seen something similar; a gunman’s rampage at their school on Feb. 14 left 17 dead. The day of the Great Mills shooting, students from Parkland began to offer support on Twitter.
“They had been through the same thing five weeks earlier,” O’Mara said. “In this kind of situation, where there aren’t a whole lot of people who understand what we’re going through, this is a whole community who understands perfectly what it’s like,” she said.
O’Mara said she has bonded with the Florida students on social media and in group chats. They’ve even reached out to others as the grim roster of American school shootings has grown. After a May shooting at a school in Santa Fe, N.M., they messaged survivors there.
“It’s very healing and very comforting,” O’Mara said of the connection.
Like the students from Parkland, O’Mara has also channeled her pain into activism. This weekend, she other Great Mills students will gather in Annapolis for a rally, Students for a Safer Maryland. The event will begin with a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Capital Gazette shooting.
O’Mara wants the students from Maryland and Florida to meet in person, and to visit the Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus.
“It’s not gonna feel good, but it’s gonna feel right to visit the memorial and pay our respects,” she said.
Currently, only a small handful of students are signed up to take the trip, which is scheduled for next month. But O’Mara hopes that after setting up a gofundme page online, many more will be able to join.
As of Monday evening, $1,430 had been raised.
Gina O’Mara, Jaxon’s mother, plans to chaperone and said she hopes the trip will be a healing experience for students who are able to attend.
“There’s no amount of therapy with an adult licensed therapist that can make up for another student who’s been through the same thing, who can stand face to face with you and hug you and say ‘I know, I know how this feels,’” she said.