JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A teacher credited with saving lives during this week's mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, issued a warning on Facebook three weeks ago about the ongoing threat of gun violence in American schools.
"So we are 23 days into the new year in that short time we have had 11 shootings on a school campus. Eleven... please let that sink in," Ernie Rospierski wrote in the Jan. 23 post. "School is supposed to be a safe place for students not the scene of a first person shooter game."
In the now-ominous post, Rospierski went on say that federal lawmakers should prioritize school safety ahead of all other matters with the three-day government shutdown over.
"I know my own school plan is sit tight and hope they don’t come does not inspire but it is all we have. More needs to be done without making schools into prisons. Forget stupid walls or what ever else is on the docket we need to fix this now, not tomorrow now," he stated.
He could not have known then that the sort of senseless violence he spoke of would strike home.
Multiple attempts to reach Rospierski on Friday were not successful.
Shortly before dismissal time Wednesday, a gunman stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with an AR-15 rifle, Broward County authorities said. He opened fire on students and staff inside, killing 17 people and injuring several more.
Sheriff Scott Israel identified the suspected shooter as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a troubled former student with an alarming presence on social media indicating a passion for guns. What's more, the FBI was warned previously about a YouTube post by a user sharing Cruz's name that foretold the shooting.
But were it not for the bravery and selflessness of Rospierski and others, including that of football coach Aaron Feis who saved others' lives at the cost of his own, the Valentine's Day carnage may have been far worse, according to multiple reports.
Per the Miami Herald, students were making their way for the exits after the fire alarm sounded shortly before 2:30 p.m. But Rospierski drove them back inside their classrooms when gunshots rang out. Locked out of his own classroom, he corralled eight students into an alcove and out of the line of fire.
At some point, the newspaper reported, a bullet whizzed past Rospierski's face, grazing his cheek. But when the gunfire came to a temporary halt, he seized the moment and ushered the group of children toward a nearby stairwell. As the violence resumed, he took cover in a bathroom until police showed up.
According to the Herald's report, all Rospierski could think about as the bloodshed wore on was whether his wife, who also teaches at the school, was safe. "My biggest concern wasn't for me, it was for my wife more than anything else," he told the newspaper.
Fortunately, he soon learned she too had survived. "We are physically fine," he wrote in a Facebook post at 3:06 p.m. that day. Hours later, he elaborated: "Andrea left her phone in her classroom and can not get to it but she is safe and with me at home."
To read more about this story, visit the Miami Herald.