Parkland Shooting Survivor: ‘I Tried To Befriend Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends’

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Isabelle Robinson says the shooter was the bully at Stoneman Douglas, not the innocent victims

When something tragic happens, a natural reaction for survivors or spectators is to assign blame for said tragedy. Throughout the past six weeks, we’ve seen everyone from the NRA, to right-wing pundits, to internet comment section trolls assigning blame for the Parkland massacre exactly where it shouldn’t belong: on the shoulders of the students who survived, rather than the shooter himself.

It’s not only ridiculous, but it demonstrates an irresponsible lack of abstract thinking. Parkland survivor and Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Isabelle Robinson’s scathing, heartbreaking op-ed in the New York Times proves exactly why.

In the op-ed, titled “I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends,” Robinson explains why the whole “maybe if kids were nicer to the shooter, this wouldn’t have happened” is beyond unfair and dangerous. She shares an incident involving herself and the shooter years before the shooting — he assaulted her in the middle of the cafeteria. She writes that she still tried to show kindness afterward, by tutoring him in high school, where he responded by ogling her and making her uncomfortable. Robinson argues that the #WalkUpNotOut movement that emerged during the week of #NationalWalkoutDay wouldn’t have prevented the shooting at her school.

“The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line,” Robinson writes.

Also? It’s not the responsibility of fellow students to put themselves in vulnerable situations with known aggressors who have demonstrated violent and unpredictable behavior. “It is the responsibility of the school administration and guidance department to seek out those students and get them the help that they need,” Robinson writes. “Even if it is extremely specialized attention that cannot be provided at the same institution.”

Her op-ed has gained plenty of support on social media. Because who better to speak on the Parkland shooting and the shooter than a fellow student who survived his murderous rampage and knew him well?

How many times must these kids tell us that the shooter was a threat before we stop blaming them for the murder of their peers — and for what? Not sitting next to him at lunch? When it was well-known he had violent tendencies? The complexities of this particular tragedy go far beyond teaching kindness — while doing so should always be a cornerstone of education — being “nice” isn’t the band-aid solution here.

When someone shows you who they are — believe them.

I know what it’s like to be bullied. What it feels like to eat your lunch in the bathroom because you’re too terrified to face the torment that comes along with being different — an “easy target.” I know what it’s like to fake being sick in the school nurse’s office multiple times a month just so you don’t have to endure one more fucking minute of your peers. To this day, I remember the one or two fellow students who were nice to me during those awful junior high years, and I’m still grateful for their kindness and empathy.

But the Parkland shooting? The shooter, and every other shooter before him? Not the same thing. Because, as Isabelle Robinson pointed out, the shooter was the bully.

Offering a hug or smile to a troubled student wouldn’t have made a difference here. Or in any other school shooting.

“No amount of kindness or compassion alone would have changed the person that Nikolas Cruz is and was, or the horrendous actions he perpetrated,” Robinson says. “That is a weak excuse for the failures of our school system, our government, and our gun laws.”