The Grady family is proof that life, like any sport you choose, is a game of inches.
“I am definitely blessed, as I would say. I mean, just where I was in the classroom, where everything was pertaining to me, I shouldn’t really be here, sitting and talking,” said Samantha Grady, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Grady recalled being in her Holocaust history class when the shooting began. Unfamiliar with the sound of gunfire, Grady told NBC 6 she remained seated while trying to process what she was hearing.
“Movies don’t really depict how scary and horrifying that sound truly is,” Grady explained.
The terror was approaching. When the bullets started flying into her classroom, Grady and her classmates scrambled for cover.
She was hit twice: one bullet ricocheted off her chest and another grazed the right side of her torso, a wound that required 14 staples.
Grady said classmate Nick Dworet died a few feet away and her best friend, Helena Ramsey, died next to her.
“I was completely in denial [about Helena’s death],” Grady said. “At one point I just looked, like ‘Oh, you’re playing a joke on me, that’s good, playing dead, that’s a great thing, you play dead and afterwards we’ll just get out and laugh about this.’ I was just completely in denial,” Grady said.
The truth was and always will be overwhelming for the teen survivor: Her closest confidante is gone and Grady narrowly escaped death.
“What bothers me to this day, what if, what if, we’re talking inches, she was only about four or five inches away from her best friend who was killed,” said Grady’s father, Jim Grady.
Her mother, Sally Grady, said she breaks down crying whenever she thinks of her daughter’s late friend and her grieving mother. “If I can feel like this, I can just imagine how her mother feels right now,” she added.
Everytown.org defines the incidents mapped below as any time a firearm discharges a live round inside or into a school building or on or onto a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials. Incidents in which guns were brought into schools but not discharged are not included.
“It makes me think how fortunate I am to be here, but at the same time how horrible of an act this really, truly was, and how kind of angry I am that they’re not here anymore,” Grady said.
Grady still carries bullet fragments in her chest, and survivor’s guilt in her heart.
“I do feel the question of why am I still here. But, because I know that I have some kind of purpose, that kind of keeps me going,” Grady said.
That purpose, she said, is to help people. Grady said she wants to study medicine in college, to be a healer, even as her own emotional healing will always be a work in progress.
“It was just very surreal and it’s hard to process sometimes,” Grady said. “Even after a year.”