Teacher Locks Herself and 19 Students in Closet as Crazed Gunman Raids School


It’s every parent’s worst nightmare that their child might be in a dangerous — and potentially fatal — situation such as a school shooting. More and more, however, these tragic incidents continue to happen and threaten the lives of many.

The recent shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, tragically claimed the lives of 17 people, many of whom barricaded themselves in classrooms to hide from the gunman.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, made his way through hallway after hallway with his AR-15 rifle, injuring those in his path. As they hid, students texted their loved ones and posted to social media begging for help.

And though some had lost their lives, those who made it out are now using social media once again not in a plea for help, but to thank those that saved them during the harrowing time.

One teacher, in particular, that is being recognized as a hero is Language Arts teacher Melissa Falkowski.

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Falkowski was with her 19 students when the incident began. Acting quickly on instinct, she hid the students in a closet as the gunman roamed the halls and classrooms outside.

“I managed to put 19 kids in the closet with me,” Falkowski later said. “This is the worst nightmare that could ever happen to you.”

But now, her students have taken to social media to thank their teacher for her bravery and calm attitude during the horrific event.

“Being one of those 19 kids for numerous hours was beyond surreal,” said student Emma Dowd. “Melissa Falkowski, the teacher, was one of the few that kept me calm and safe. I’m beyond thankful for educators like her.”

Dowd and other students mentioned the Florida teacher kept them calm and from having panic attacks as they each wondered if the shooter was going to come into the room and find them.

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“This was my teacher,” said student Delaney Tarr. “I was in that closet. Having to feel that fear and see all those people think they’re going to die is something no person should experience.”

Reports state that Falkowski initially huddled in the corner of the classroom with her students, but made the decision to move to the closet as an extra “barrier” of protection.

The group hid in the small room for nearly 30 minutes until a SWAT team arrived.

“I made the decision to move the kids into the closet,” Falkowski said. “We had training about a month ago and we talked about these different scenarios and what to do. It was very obvious that it wasn’t a drill. I made the decision that [the closet] was another layer between us and the active shooter.”

However, at the end of the day, Falkowski — along with her students — admitted that there is no way to truly prepare someone for the horrors of an active shooting.

“We could not have been more prepared for this situation, which is what makes it so frustrating,” Falkowski said. “We did everything that we were supposed to do. Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and to still have so many casualties, at least for me, it’s very emotional.”

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ASU grad who loves all things reading and writing.
Becky is an ASU grad who uses her spare time to read, write and play with her dog, Tasha. Her interests include politics, religion, and all things science. Her work has been published with ASU's Normal Noise, Phoenix Sister Cities, and "Dramatica," a university-run publication in Romania.
Bachelor of Arts in English/Creative Writing
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