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Life as a Parkland survivor one year later

This podcast features Connor Zielinski, General Manager of WUTT Spartan Radio; Katelyn Massarelli, Editor in Chief of The Minaret ; Sydney Rhodes, News and Multimedia Editor of The Minaret; and Alex Martinez.

by Sydney Rhodes

Members of The Minaret and WUTT Spartan Radio gathered in the recording studio on UT’s campus to create a podcast concentrating on Alex Martinez, freshman and international business major. As a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Martinez is a survivor of the mass shooting that occured in Parkland last February. He speaks about his experiences in life a year after the tragic event.

“There’s always that awkward pause when I tell people where I’m from, but I don’t go out of my way to tell people about my past experiences,” said Martinez. “To know that I’m going to keep getting the questions about Parkland is a little bit of a ‘hard to swallow pill,’ but it’s part of my story now so I guess I have to live with it.”

Although it may seem like Martinez is one of the many people who are on the wrong side of history, he thinks he’s making it on the right side of history at the same time. He said during the interview that good things are coming out of gun violence. People are safer and it’s bringing awareness and conversation to the table about gun control that wasn’t present before, according to Martinez.

Martinez also brought up a recent debated topic in the U.S.––whether or not victims of gun violence should be called “survivors.”

“I may not have survived a direct attack, but it was an attack on my school and on my heart,” said Martinez. “I survived getting out of that school and I survived all of the aftermath of that too. My peers and I survived a major, historical tragedy and I think that should be celebrated and we earned that title.”

Most recently, Martinez attended the one year anniversary Parkland Vigil on Feb. 14, and said many religious leaders and families also attended the event. Each family who lost their child showed videos to celebrate what they had done in the past year and displayed art exhibits for each victim.

“It was a beautiful event, I got to see a lot of faces I haven’t seen since I graduated,” said Martinez. “But, it did feel like everything was back to square one, that was the only thing that was really hard to see and be apart of.”

As Martinez has made the transition to a different campus and school, he said he feels safe in UT’s environment and that it has helped him transition.  He is one of the few students who attend UT from his graduating class and sees new faces around campus everyday. Martinez said he is still set off by the classroom environment.

“I don’t look at a school as a safe learning environment anymore, because it’s not safe to me,” said Martinez. “In the last classroom I sat in, something really went wrong and that will always be in the back of my head when I’m in a classroom, and that’s no one’s fault at UT.”

To think living in a country where safety is an expectation and a kid can walk into a building with a deadly weapon and kill 17 people ruins a vision of life, according to Martinez.  

“Right after an event like that, your whole world is shaken up,” Martinez said. “Everything you think you know is wrong, because that safety bubble your parents spent your entire life building around you has popped.”

Sydney Rhodes can be reached at sydney.rhodes@theminaretonline.com

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