For the community in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14 is the day a 19-year old former student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in 2018.
Two years later, some of the affected are attempting a new normal. Many of the Parkland survivors formed March for Our Lives, a group calling for gun control that boasts 100 local chapters across the U.S.
Sister and brother Lauren and David Hogg survived the shooting and are among the co-founders of March for Our Lives. Lauren is now a junior at Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C.; her older brother David — who has emerged as a very public face for March for Our Lives — is now attending Harvard.
Lauren and David’s mother, Rebecca Boldrick, spoke with The Lily in New York this week before a screening of “Parkland Rising,” a documentary by Cheryl McDonough about activism after the shooting.
Lauren Hogg spoke on a panel after the screening.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Lily: You said you want to normalize [Feb.14]. Is that even possible?
Boldrick: We’re trying to normalize the anniversary now, and I’m trying to take Valentine’s Day back for [Lauren]. Her brother’s staying at school. Last year, everybody came back to Parkland. But we don’t live in Parkland anymore.
We’re just living the suburban life. Her whole life, both her mom and dad have worked. Now neither my husband or I are working. So we’re home all the time. So that’s very different. I was a teacher. Now I’m home making dinner and baking cookies and doing things. I’m trying to get a job. Their dad is retired from the FBI. So the main goal of our family is to make her happy and healthy at home.
The Lily: Would that be another teaching job?
Boldrick: I don’t think so. I think I now need to go more in the political realm or the gun violence prevention realm. I taught for 30 years. I really feel really, really strongly that everybody in this country who doesn’t like what’s going on in this country needs to get out and rally the troops.
The Lily: What else would you want people to do?
Boldrick: I want people to vote. That’s the main thing. If you don’t like what’s going on, then shut up and vote.
People can join organizations like Moms Demand Action. I think that’s really, really important. If you don’t want your child — yourself or your child, to be mowed down in Walmart, the movies, school — you need to take action and speak out against assault weapons.
[Politicians] work for us, which they don’t seem to understand. But they do. So really make how you feel known through calling, through writing, through everything.
I’m not saying all guns. My husband’s former FBI. We are members of the NRA — not by choice. Some haters made our whole family members but I can say I’m a member of the NRA. Someone paid our membership.
The Lily: Is that like people joining Planned Parenthood in [Vice President] Pence’s name, that kind of thing? When was that?
Boldrick: Right after the shooting. We’re still members, because we get our membership cards in the mail. We also get “Guns & Ammo” magazine from someone. People are awful. I have learned that people are just horrible human beings through this. And wonderful, amazing and loving, right?
The Lily: How quickly after afterward did that stuff appear?
Boldrick: Oh, within days.
The Lily: So they knew your home address.
Boldrick: In Florida, it’s public record. So we’ve been through hell. I had death threats. I’ve had many — we’ve all had death threats. Mostly online, which nothing can be done about. But I did get one in the mail. The postal inspector found the person. He was 82-years-old. They literally went to his house, kicked in his door and took all of his guns. He had a lot.
Lauren Hogg: We’re not anti-gun. We are [for] gun violence prevention. We’re tired of it.
The Lily: What frustrates you most about where things are right now versus where they were two years ago?
Boldrick: I don’t think there’s been a significant amount of change. I know there has been on the local and state level, but federally, I don’t feel like anyone takes this seriously.
I don’t think they realize that the average American fears for their life. I’m always looking over my shoulder. If I’m in the supermarket, where am I going to escape? Where am I going to hide? In the mall, in the movie theater, everywhere I go, and when I see someone with their hands in their pocket — I think they have a gun. It’s a horrible way to live.
The Lily: I’m sorry. I’m still fixated on this person who signed you up for your NRA membership and you’re now members.
Boldrick: Well, we’re lucky because we never had dead animals on our front doorstep. A lot of the parents did. I don’t understand. These kids are trying to save lives. Why are you so threatened?
The Lily: Do you have a candidate that you’re —?
Boldrick: I do. Bloomberg.
I'm hoping to go to work for him. Because I really think he has a proven track record against gun violence prevention. We know he messed up with “stop and frisk.” That was a horribly racist thing and shouldn't have happened. But it did. So he's apologized and we're going forward, you know?
The Lily: Are you speaking for you? Are you speaking for your family?
Boldrick: Just me.
[Lauren] likes [Sen.] Bernie Sanders, which is fine. She’s very much against racism in general, so she really doesn’t like the “stop and frisk” thing. You know, she’s young, so she doesn’t really realize that everyone has things in their past they regret, especially the older we get.
She sees Bernie as the perfect candidate. He’s got stuff, too. Everybody’s got stuff.
Hogg: I think the biggest thing is not being a fake progressive.
The Lily: How did the shooting change Lauren?
Boldrick: First of all, I think it's made her really a strong advocate and really grow into herself. Before she was just a normal kid doing normal things. She kind of was always in David’s shadow, but she is much smarter than he is. He will tell you she's the smarter one of the two of them. She’s become more mature and more astute. She's really brilliant.
So I think she’s really grown into a very passionate young woman. The first time she really spoke her mind — we actually went into hiding after the shooting in California because I was so worried. She came in to us in the morning and she says, “Mom and Dad, I think I really messed up. I just tweeted something at the first lady.”
That's really when she grew as a person.
The Lily: Did Melania Trump respond?
Boldrick: Oh no, the first lady did not respond. Everyone else did.
The Lily: Has there been any outreach from Republicans or the White House?
Boldrick: In the beginning, [President] Trump called David and asked him to come to the White House and David said, “Come to Parkland. I’m not coming to the White House,” and hung up.
The Lily: That’s it?
As a teacher, first of all, I don’t want to be armed as a teacher. Second of all, I don’t want armed people in my school. It scares me.
The Lily: You’re an educator, you’re a mother of two children who were directly affected. What would you say to parents about how to talk to their children? At what point do you start? What do you say?
Boldrick: Sadly, I think it’s something we need to talk about their whole lives. We started talking about it with our kids when they were very young, because my husband’s an FBI agent. We’d be in the mall as a family or at the movies, and he would say, “If something happens here, where are you going to hide? Where are you going to run? How are you going to escape?” So from a very early age, we taught that to our kids.
The Lily: How young?
Boldrick: Probably 4.
The Lily: What do you think the media could do differently in covering mass shootings?
Boldrick: Absolutely no notoriety. Don't say the shooter’s name. It's really, really important because a lot of them are doing it to get notoriety. So just say, “a 16-year-old male” or “the shooter.”
The Lily: How much do you think we or the public should know about his ideology or his beliefs or his motivations? Do you think that matters?
Boldrick: Honestly, I don't. I think people are sick and disturbed. And those who are the most sick and disturbed grab onto things that are radical. So I don't think it matters. In the case of our shooter, I don't know that it made any difference.
The Lily: We don’t always know what to say to people who are grieving. Is there something you wish people knew about what to do, or what not to do? In the immediate aftermath or even after?
Boldrick: I think the most important thing is to seek help. Professional therapy right away. My kids were both in therapy within 12 hours of the shooting. And remain in therapy. It's really, really important.
A lot of kids said, “Oh, I'm fine. I don't need help.” Whatever. Now two years out, they're having nervous breakdowns. Get help as soon as you can.
There’s power in talking to other people who are involved in your same tragedy. The March for Our Lives parents, we are like family now. We do things together, we travel together, we go to parties together, we celebrate each other’s birthdays and holidays together. Because we have a shared experience. We’ve all received death threats. We’ve all gone through this horrible stuff that nobody else can relate to. We actually did group therapy together. They still do it in Florida together.
Because nobody can understand what the life of an activist parent is.