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Youngest Survivors Of Parkland School Shooting Now Graduating

PARKLAND (CBSMiami/CNN) – High school graduation is a rite of passage, usually filled with great memories, and maybe a little anxiety, but for graduating seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High in Parkland, their high school memories are riddled with violence and a pandemic.

For Brooke Harrison, a graduating senior, everything about high school has been different.

"I was in the 1200 building, which is where the shooting happened and I was on the first floor in room 1216," she recalled.

Brooke was a 14-year-old freshman when a former student carried out one of the worst school shootings in American history. Seventeen people were killed and another 17 were injured.

"Alaina, Alyssa and Alex all died in my classroom, and eight people total were shot in my classroom. And so everyone that was around me, like where I decided to, like try to hide was either shot or killed," said Brooke.

When reflecting on her years in high school, Brooke said, "I really only had like the first semester of like, my freshman year, that was like, normal. And then the rest just kind of was what it was. Sophomore year was probably like the worst for me like mental health wise because I was still recovering from just like, just like witnessing everything I witnessed, like being in the building."

Brooke's classmate Lauren Hogg and her family decided they had to leave Parkland and move to DC.

"DC has become like my refuge," said Lauren who said she liked school most of her life, except after the shooting.

"After the shooting, being at Douglas was like being like, in hell. So much has happened that it feels like I've been living in dog years. It feels like I've been in high school for 20 years. And I tell people that all the time when they asked me how I feel about graduating."

Hogg and other survivors turned their pain into action by starting a movement against gun violence that has gone global with March for Our Lives.

But gun violence has only gotten worse.

"Two years after the shooting, I thought that the reason why these things kept happening is because they just needed to hear one more story. Politicians just need to hear one more voice. And so, as a child, I tried to do that. And then I got older, and I worked more, and I realized it's not that they don't know what to do they choose not to," said Hogg.

It's not just the horrific mass shooting that scarred their high school years. Since then, they've been hit by another trauma, the coronavirus pandemic which shutdown school and their lives.

"It's been awful," said Hogg. "And also, with everything else going on in the world, it's compounded our trauma. And the fact that we're isolated makes it even worse. I didn't get to see my friends. I didn't get homecoming. And I just didn't get the regular john Hughes, you know, senior high school stuff."

Brooke Harrison agrees. She only been in school one time this past year, for an AP exam.

"She's been in my house the entire time. So actually, that's been so good for me, as much as like, she missed out on so much she was home safe," said her mother, Denise Harrison.

Brooke's graduation signifies a new beginning.

"You've gotten to be such an amazing person," an emotional Denise told her daughter.

"I wish didn't have to go through all this. I wish it could have been different that these other families, that their kids were taken from them. They don't get to see their kids grow up. They all should have been able to graduate go to college and have their first love and you know, all the milestones. So, it's hard."

Like so many moments already in these young girls lives, they were forced to grow up too fast, forced to miss out on so much, but they still look forward.

"It does feel like closing like a chapter on my life and kind of moving on to like a better one," said Brooke who is looking forward to college. "It kind of feels like a chance to have, like, a semi normal school experience."

Hogg is ready to move on but will always allow herself time to reflect on the past.

"I think reflection is necessary for me moving forward, because I think if I moved forward without reflecting on all the work that I've done, all the things that I've been through, it would just be putting all those experiences to waste, and I cannot stand for that to happen."

(©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

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