They say you don’t know what you have until you lose it. It’s a bitterly painful lesson about appreciation after a loss.
Every so often, beyond all probability, we get a second chance to evaluate who and what is important to us. Who matters when the chips are down?
When we are young, siblings are often our strongest allies. As we grow, age, interests, school, and developmental freedoms create a natural distance.
Sam Zief, 18, was in his senior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. His brother, Matthew Zief, 14, was a freshman.
After three years alone on campus, Sam had established friends and was looking to the future. He admitted that he and his brother had not been particularly close.
Sam had just finished a Valentine’s Day math test when he and his second-floor classmates heard a series of gunshots followed by the fire alarm. Their teacher instructed them to find hiding places and they knew not to go out into the hall.
But Sam knew his brother was on the third floor. “After sitting there for ten minutes of hearing shots, I realized my brother was right above me. I was like ‘my little brother might not be okay,'” Sam told Inside Edition. The big brother turned to technology and sent Matthew a text.
The students on the third floor had not heard the initial shots. Conditioned to respond to fire alarms, many classrooms started to evacuate.
By the time Matthew’s teacher and classmates realized what was going on, Matthew was outside the classroom. His geography teacher, Scott Biegel, did all he could to get his students back into the classroom.
Matthew is reportedly the last student Biegel saved before being shot to death by the disturbed young gunman. For an undetermined amount of time, Matthew and his classmates hid unprotected staring at the slaughter of their teacher.
“Are the cops here/ my teacher died/ and he’s sitting in the doorway.” Matthew messaged him brother. Helpless, all Sam could do was tell his brother he loved him and promise that the pair would get out alive — something Sam knew wasn’t certain.
Thankfully, both boys made it out of the Parkland high school that day. “Scariest part of it all was knowing my little brother was right above me and not knowing if I would ever see him again… Seeing his face outside of school was the most relief I’d ever felt,” Sam posted to his Twitter account on Feb. 15.
Scariest part of it all was knowing my little brother was right above me and not knowing if I would ever see him again. I’ve never really treated him the way he deserved. Not anymore. Seeing his face outside of school was the most relief I had ever felt. My prayers to all. pic.twitter.com/Iq8CHVNXd0
— Uncle Sam Zeif #Douglasstrong (@SzZeif) February 15, 2018
“Him and I never really connected and now it’s like a whole new relationship,” Sam told Inside Edition. “I have this unreal appreciation for him that I never felt before and it’s amazing because I never realized how life could take him away from me.
“I never thought we could be in a situation where we would have to worry about that.” To be fair, going to school shouldn’t risk being trapped in such a terrifying, uncertain, and traumatizing situation.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lost an innocence Feb. 14, 2018. Developmentally normal illusions of invincibility and a sense of general safety were shattered by the senseless, unforgivable, selfish tirade of a person with an AR-15.
While Sam got to breathe a sigh of relief reunited with his brother, he lost one of his best friends, Joaquin Oliver, in the inexcusable tragedy. Both boys have sought therapy to help them cope with this life-altering experience.
In a sea of darkness where the lives of 17 people were senselessly lost, it’s hard to find even the slightest glimmer of silver lining. In these circumstances, we turn to the courageous acts of the school staff, both alive and diseased, that did everything in their power to protect those children.
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