WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — On Friday, an organization in Washington D.C., called the National Center for Health Research, plans to honor several people connected to the mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The shooting is one of the country’s worst modern mass school shootings.
“I told those students, 'I pray you never have to use this, but you've got about 15 seconds to decide what your plan is. And so, if you are crying, if you let the emotions get to you and you're crying and screaming, you're not going to be able to develop a plan,” said Parkland, Florida teacher, Susan Rioux.
Rioux tells WUSA 9 that that’s what she said to many of the 7th and 8th graders once in her Peer Counseling class at Westglades Middle School. Westglades MS is right next to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
It was some of those students, now at the high school, who reached-out.
"I started getting text messages saying, Ms. Rioux, you're the reason I'm alive. I looked immediately, when everyone started crying and screaming, I started looking for a way out,” said Rioux.
"I was grateful. I was grateful. And I still, as I drive by that school every morning on the way to my school, I can't believe it happened,” she added.
Rioux is one of several people being honored on Friday. The other honorees include a MSD High School student and a group of DC-area mothers who helped coordinate room and board for hundreds of March For Our Lives protesters.
Rioux says she plans to accept the award on behalf of Broward County, which she says has been operating the Peer Counseling Program for several years. An older post on the Broward County Public Schools website says the program once received national recognition.
Rioux tells WUSA 9 the class includes anywhere between 30 – 40 students. They hold discussions on conflict resolution and emergency preparedness. After the shooting, Rioux says they’ve been focused on addressing PTSD.
She shared her story hoping it will help start more conversations, especially in this day and age.
"We don't talk to each other. Even on the flight up to Washington today, everybody was on their cell phone,” said Rioux.