PARKLAND, FL (WIS) - A prayer vigil Thursday afternoon in Parkland drew hundreds upon hundreds of people unified in their mourning.
Simone Kuffner explained how she watched people pray, hug, and cry. The Florida mother who was there kept replaying in her mind what it was like when her son called her as he was running for his life from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
"There's probably a thousand people here, Kuffner said as she began to cry. "It's just so sad. When we got here, my son and his friend saw each other. And you can't even describe the embrace they gave each other. They have ministers and pastors from all different churches here. Police are here. The fire/rescue are here. It's just a big outpouring of support from the community."
Her son, Shawn, had called her yesterday in a panic as he was running for his life from the shooter. She described how they spent their evening last night after being reunited.
"It's just indescribable, actually, I mean you're just so thankful that your child is safe. You can't hold him tight enough at that moment. You just think about all the parents who will never hold their child like that again," Kuffner said. "He didn't leave my side last night for even a moment. We were watching TV together and he actually fell asleep on my bed and he did wake up four or five times during the middle of the night calling out for me. So, it was a rough night."
Her son is in the band. Two of his fellow band members - one of whom was a girl in the color guard - were shot and died.
"We know two students that were in the band program with my son - a color guard girl and a band member, freshman, who passed away," Kuffner said.
Kuffner says her son and several of the other students are all going to spend the night together tonight as a way to talk through their thoughts and fears and just support one another.
"His friends have a strong, really strong bond in their friend group," Kuffner said. "They've all been calling and talking to each other through last night and today. They're actually having a sleepover - boys and girls - at one of his friend's house this evening just to support each other."
Kuffner says this is a bad dream and she keeps trying to wake up. Sadly, the nightmare is real.
"It does feel surreal," she said. "You watch this on television, read it in the news multiple times happening in other schools in other places. And now it's in our home and you think you're going to wake up tomorrow and it was just a story that you read or a bad dream that you're going to wake up from. But, unfortunately, it's not. It's just very scary.
"I just think society, in general,l they just think it's no big deal but, unfortunately, I feel like if somebody is going to do harm or wants to do harm," she continued. "They're going to find a way whether they have legal access or not. If somebody wants to hurt somebody, they find a way to do it anyway."
Shawn's brother is living in Connecticut and Kuffner says he called constantly Wednesday night and on Thursday just to hear his brother's voice and be assured he truly made it out alive.