Mary Trizzino, a 65-year-old math teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had been trained how to secure her classroom during an active shooter situation. But when a gunman actually opened fire in the halls Wednesday, she "broke protocol" to keep kids safe.
Trizzino said she opened her classroom door — something she was trained never to do — to let a group of children and an adult shelter inside. Then, in those harrowing moments that followed, she turned to comfort the students.
"I turned to the kids and I said, 'I want you to know that if anybody comes through that door to harm you, ... they will have to shoot me to get to you, and maybe that will give you a chance,'" Trizzino said on the "Today" show Tuesday, nearly one week after alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and teachers at the South Florida school.
Known as "Momma Trizzino" to her students, the teacher is just one year away from retirement. She huddled in her classroom with the kids for 90 minutes until a SWAT team came for them.
The gunman had been walking through the next building over, where English teacher Dara Hass had watched her students take some of the first bullets. In an emotional interview on "Today," Hass described the moments she saw 14-year-old Alex Schachter lying on her classroom floor.
"I went to shut the blinds, and then I turned to say 'Turn the lights off.' When I turned I saw my student. I saw him and he … he was bleeding," Hass said.
"I called 9-1-1 and they asked if I could get to my student that was injured. And I couldn't get over to him."
Schachter died in Hass' classroom, along with fellow freshmen Alyssa Alhadeff and Alaina Petty.
"It's so hard to grasp that I lost their sweet faces," the teacher said.
Like Trizzino, Hass also worked to bring peace to the children she had been educating.
"I figured if I have to go, I'm gonna hug my students closer," Hass said. "And I kissed my students on their head, trying to comfort them."
Hass mourned the young lives she lost that day, saying, "It's not fair that they had to be taken." Honoring Schachter, she read a poem he had written for one of her homework assignments. Because he would never get to submit it to Hass, Schachter's dad had texted the piece to her.
Hass read from her phone:
"Life is like a rollercoaster
It has some ups and downs
Eventually it all comes to a stop
You won't know when or how
But you will know that it will be time to get off and start new"
Hass, Trizzino and the other Stoneman Douglas staff members are scheduled to return to the school Friday for a day "dedicated to meeting staff members’ needs, with a variety of support services," according to a school statement. Students are set to return on Feb. 27 with a modified schedule and support services available.
In the meantime, about 100 Stoneman Douglas students are in Tallahassee Wednesday to meet with the state's Republican-held legislature and rally for sweeping change to Florida's gun-control laws.