A video depicting a red-haired boy in search of a mystery girl at his high school has captivated the internet, but not for the reason you might think.
The beginning of the ad focuses on a teenager named Evan, who’s anxious for summer break. So anxious, in fact, he sketches a message of boredom into the wooden desk he sits at in the school library.
To his surprise, the next day, when he returned to his usual spot, someone had written back. Grinning, Evan looks around, and starts a dialogue with the unknown pen pal.
“What u up to this summer,” Evan asks.
“Nothing cool,” the mystery person responds.
“Maybe we should do nothing cool together,” he suggests.
“Sounds good,” she replies.
After days of scanning Instagram and searching classrooms for a hint of who this mystery girl might be, Evan finally musters up the courage to ask, “Who are you??”
The next day, an excited Evan rushes to the library to finally get the answer he’s been waiting for, only to find out that the library is closed. He’s crushed. Giving up, Evan goes to the gymnasium to sign yearbooks. As luck would have it, the mystery girl he’s been writing to saw his signature on a friend’s yearbook and introduced herself.
But the uplifting moment abruptly ends when an armed classmate in the background steps into the gymnasium and cocks an assault rifle as dozens of students flee, screaming.
“While you were watching Evan, another student was showing signs of planning a shooting. But no one noticed,” Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization made up of parents, schools and community organizations to deliver gun violence prevention programs, explains at the end of the short film.
The organization produced the public service announcement to help bring awareness to the warning signs often displayed by people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others.
The scenario in the ad then replays in slow motion — this time, focusing on a troubled student in the background who’s reading a magazine about guns, refusing to interact with a fellow student, getting bullied by his locker, researching guns on the internet and posing with a weapon in a selfie posted on Instagram.
“Gun violence is preventable when you know the signs,” Sandy Hook Promise said.
More than 2.5 million people have watched the powerful PSA since it was released on the organization’s YouTube channel on Friday. And 1.6 million people have watched it on the group’s official Facebook page, which received dozens of comments over the weekend.
“This is excellent. I was shocked at the end of the video,” one Facebook user admitted. “It’s a cautionary tale about how much we miss if we aren’t looking for the signs. (And I’m a teacher!)”
“Thank you for your tireless work to educate. From tragedy comes good,” another commenter wrote. “Hopefully this will help prevent even one more death.”