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Holocaust History Came Alive In Parkland Shooting

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PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – More than two months have passed since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"I think about it to this day. What if I had chosen to go left instead of right?" It's a question that haunts student Sid Fischer. "What if I was where they were?"

Fischer is referring to his Stoneman Douglas classmates who darted to the opposite side of their classroom when confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz opened fire into their Holocaust History class.

Fischer sat down with CBS4, as did his classmates Daniel Zaphrany, Kelly Plaur, Hannah Carbozzi and their teacher, Ivy Schamis.

For the first time, as a group, they shared their harrowing, firsthand account of surviving February's mass shooting in Parkland.

They lost two of their classmates, Nicholas Dworet and Helena Ramsay.  Four others, huddled in the same spot as Dworet and Ramsay, were wounded.

"Those who went to the right, survived," Fischer said.  "Those who went to the opposite corner of the classroom, were shot.  It was that random."

Carbozzi said, "I just prayed that he didn't come in our classsroom because if he did, we would have all been killed."

Cruz did not enter the room, instead shooting through an opening he created when he shot out the door's rectangular glass pane.

After the shooting it was revealed he'd scrawled a swastika, the Nazi symbol, onto one of his ammunition magazines, though Schamis does not believe he was aware he was firing into a Holocaust class.

For Ivy Schamis, the lessons of the Holocaust came alive in that classroom horror.  It's a class she's taught at Stoneman Douglas for the last 4 years.  She's very passionate about the subject.

"When the principal said we could have this [Holocaust history] elective...I was the first one to jump up and say I would like to [teach] that. It's very important. It's necessary," she said.

CBS4 met up with Mrs. Schamis and her students while they toured the Craig and Barbara Weiner Holocaust Reflection and Resource Room at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

The center, like Mrs. Schamis's class, is devoted to teaching the lessons of Nazi Germany's systematic murder of 6 million Jews in the 1940's.

"It's something that's in my roots," Fischer said. "I'm Jewish.  And I think that learning about people who went through terrible tragedies is, you have to learn about them to understand what they went through."

Kelly Plaur's great grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp.

"We were just trying to stay alive like the people in the Holocaust were trying to stay alive.  So I guess we could be called survivors [too]," Plaur said, coming to grips with this new, unwelcome part of her identity.

Fischer said, "I think that once we're stripped of our innocence like that, I think that's the moment you call us survivors."

Plaur thought of another parallel to the Holocaust.  "I feel like survivors also have survivor's guilt.  I have survivor's guilt also.  People back then felt like they could have done more things, but they didn't or they couldn't.  Just like I felt I couldn't do more."

"I felt like I could have told Nick and Helena and everyone in that corner "come over to this corner it's more safe," said Fischer

But their teacher tried to reassure them.  "It happened so fast," Schamis said.  "[Cruz] was moving the weapon through the window.  I thought that too, but there was really no way to know."

Daniel Zaphrany said, "I think about it every day. When I don't think about it, it comes up on me."

CBS4 has profiled numerous Holocaust survivors, now living in South Florida.  Each of them has expressed a need to share his story.  The Parkland kids say they can understand that urge.

"Yeah, because if you're just watching the news and your only view is of a helicopter over my school, I feel like you don't understand the reality of the situation," Fischer says.  "I feel like if I tell you my story first hand, you'll understand what I actually went through."

The day after the shooting, Schamis spoke to CBS4.  She predicted that her students would respond to the horror by spreading love.  Now, two and a half months later?

"I am seeing it, yes," she said.  "They're taking that terrible tragedy.  I'm seeing this optimism.  And they're turning it around to make it into a message they can spread.  And love is way better than hate."

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