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Former Olney family lives through shooting at Florida high school –

by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
February 14 will be a day the Kraemer family always remembers, but not for candy and flowers.
Although former Olney residents Adam and Allison Kraemer received an “I love you” text from their 17-year-old son, Dylan, it was not a Valentine’s Day sentiment.
Dylan is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a mass shooting left 17 people dead and many others injured.
Dylan survived the nightmare, but some of his friends and classmates did not.
The shooting suspect, former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

A place like Olney

Adam and Allison Kraemer, Dylan, and their other son, Max, lived in James Creek and Arden Woods from 2000-2009 before moving to Florida, where their daughter Michaela was born.
Dylan attended Brooke Grove Elementary School until third grade.
Allison Kraemer said Parkland, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale near Boca Raton, is a lot like Olney.
“They’re really similar, that is why we ended up here,” she said. “It’s a small, close-knit community, very kid and family-oriented.”
Like Olney, she said the community always rallies together when there is a need, and you always see familiar faces when out at the park or grocery store.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a large high school, with about 3,300 students, Allison Kraemer said.
It is like a small college campus with multiple buildings. The shootings occurred in Building 12, often referred to as the “Freshman Building.” Dylan was in an elective class — Holocaust Remembrance.
Dylan said he was in last period at about 2:20 p.m. School ends at 2:40 p.m.
“We were working on our last assignment on our computers when we heard a couple of shots,” he said. “I knew what it was.”
Most of the 30 students ran to the corner away from the door and some got under the teacher’s desk, he said.
He and about six other classmates were in the direct line of sight from the door and could see the shooter.
“I moved the file cabinet and pushed the students behind it,” he said. “We got shot at through the window. Five people were hit — two on my left and three on my right.”
A close friend of his was unresponsive. “I checked his pulse, but he was dead.”
Another student who sheltered behind the file cabinet died. Others were injured.
Dylan said the shots probably lasted less than a minute.
The incident is a blur, but he can somewhat gauge the time by the phone call he made to police — he stayed on the line with them for 12 minutes before the police came in and escorted him and his classmates out quickly.
“They got us out and told us to run as fast as we could,” Dylan said. “I had texted both my parents but called them as soon as I got outside.”
Allison said the day was crazy.
She and Adam both work from home. Adam was leaving to go out on an appointment and mentioned that he had received a text from Dylan that said, “I love you.”
“I thought that was really sweet,” Allison said. “Dylan is a very warm kid and sends us texts like that every now and then, so I didn’t think too much of it. Then I saw that I had a text from him, too.”
She looked at her phone and gasped as she read it out loud: “Mom I love you there is a shooting at my school if anything happens I love you so much.”
And then another: “I’m hiding I’m okay.”
Allison said she and Adam quickly hopped in their car and drove, full of emotions. Most of the communities are gated, but she knew of one unlocked gate where they eventually met up with Dylan.
“I hopped out of the car and hugged him so hard,” she said.
She called the whole thing surreal.
“It something that you never think will happen in your school or your community,” Allison said. “But I feel proud and lucky, and heartbroken for the families who lost kids or whose kids were injured.”
Allison said they will get through this by sticking together as a family and getting Dylan the support he needs.
“It’s been remarkable the way that people have come together to work through this,” she said.

A new normal

On February 25, students and their parents returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas for an open house and to retrieve their belongings. They returned to class on February 28 with a modified, half-day schedule.
“It was weird being there,” Dylan said of the open house. “It was like a crime scene. It scared me, but it was good being all back together.”
Allison said Dylan and his classmates appeared to handle returning to the school pretty well.
“It made it easier to walk through the door for the first time together,” she said. “There were tears and lots of hugging, and tons of therapy dogs.”
Allison said that she thinks going back to school will be good for Dylan and his classmates. He toyed with doing virtual school online but decided he wants to be at school with his classmates.
“They want to stand together,” she said.
The incident has shifted everyone’s priorities.
“No one expects this,” Dylan said. “It’s not something that is supposed to happen. Everyone is dealing with it in their own way. It’s a whole new world for me — what I care about and my priorities. I just cope with it and live.”
Dylan says he has done some interviews and feels ready to get further involved in the protests surrounding gun violence and school safety.
“I agree with banning assault rifles,” he said. “And I think there are a lot of things that could be changed in a lot of schools, like our building was not locked.”
Allison said that because the family was so close to the incident, their feelings were initially too “raw” to join the protests. But going forward, they intend to support for the #neveragain movement and get further involved in the safety of children.
As the parents of an 8-year-old, Allison hopes to bring parents of younger children on board.
“Our family is 100 percent planning to go to the march on March 24 in Washington, D.C.,” Allison said. “We hope that while we are there, we can spend some time in Olney.”

Having a ‘realistic discussion’ with children

One issue to examine when incidents like the shooting in Florida happen is the increasing anxiety in children, said Julie Bulitt, a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Olney.
“As a clinician, I am definitely seeing more kids suffering from anxiety and depression,” she said. “That is, in part, due to our society and technology — exposure to social media, the internet and video games.”
With the lack of “down time,” children often do not have the time to stop and think about themselves — who and what they are, she said.
“They miss that with so many things at their fingertips,” Bulitt said.
Children find out about things that are happening on social media instantaneously.
“We are wired to be ‘on’ all the time now and that is not really good for our mind, our brain or anxiety,” she said. “This is, in part, leading to more mental health issues for kids.”
As for how to talk to children about the shootings, she admits that it is a catch-22.
“You want them to feel safe so they are able to learn, but you also want them to be prepared,” she said. “And that can create anxiety.”
She suggests that parents have a realistic discussion with their children.
“Put it into perspective and talk about the likelihood of something like this happening,” Bulitt said. “Look at the stats. The chances are very low. But also help to prepare them. If there is a plan in place, that will help them to feel in control and help with anxiety.”
Dr. Jack R. Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), sent a letter to the community on Feb. 15, the day after the Florida shooting, reiterating that safety is the school system’s first priority.
“The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida has deeply saddened and shaken us all,” Smith’s letter reads. “The thoughts of the entire Montgomery County Public Schools family are with the families who are grieving in the wake of this tragedy.”
Smith acknowledged that because such tragedies can cause tremendous worry and stress, it can be difficult for parents to talk about this kind of violence with their children.
He said school counselors would be available to help students and staff cope.
Smith assured parents that MCPS takes the safety and security of students and staff very seriously by taking a multi-pronged approach.
He said the school system requires all schools to perform emergency preparedness drills “so they can respond quickly and safely in an emergency.”
He said the drills include “lockdown; shelter in place; drop, cover and hold; severe weather; evacuation and reverse evacuation drills.”
The school system also works closely with local law enforcement agencies and has made investments in infrastructure to secure school buildings, including access control, visitor management and surveillance systems.
“Most importantly, MCPS has engaged teachers and administrators who are committed to providing students with a safe and welcoming learning environment,” Smith’s letter reads. “These employees, in conjunction with security personnel, ensure that while education is our top priority, safety remains our first priority.”
Bulitt said it is wrong for a parent or teacher to tell a student that an incident “will never happen here.”
“Let them know that there are safety provisions in place and make sure they know they don’t need to be consumed about it,” she said.

Bulitt is scheduled to give a presentation to the Sherwood High School PTSA at 7 p.m. March 20 in the media center. The topic will be “Resiliency Skills for Parents and Teens.” She also plans to address anxiety about the recent school shootings.
More information on Montgomery County Public Schools resources and emergency preparedness are available at http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/emergency/preparedness/index.aspx#other or http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/emergency/preparedness/.

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