Ashley Kurth is a 34-year-old culinary teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida. She was ending a day of teaching Wednesday when former student Nikolas Cruz allegedly walked into the school and opened fire with a rifle, killing at least 17 people. Kurth spoke with The Daily Beast about how she helped 65 kids and other teachers hide from the gunfire.
It was the end of the day and I was closing up because we just finished doing all of our cooking labs. We heard two pops and I thought it was something like a balloon popping.
Then the fire alarm went off, which was really weird because we just had a fire alarm that morning. So I started getting the door closed on the one side to get the kids out for the fire drill. And as I was shutting my door, I had two very large senior boys coming at me like white faced, screaming, “There’s a shooter! There’s a shooter!”
Then you could hear the rest of the gunshots start to go off. It almost sounded like firecrackers with the way that it was in succession.
I grabbed them and brought them in. Other kids were starting to come in from there and I quickly ran around to the front of the classroom.
We were prepping for a first shooter drill that we had just gone over not too long ago. So I was like, “OK, well here goes.”
As I went out to the front, to lock my front door to double check it was secure, there was a whole mass of children that were just running out from the freshman building.
It was just surreal. It was surreal, just watching them come out like that. I just started grabbing as many kids as I could. I grabbed two of my fellow colleagues and the kids that were with them.
After about 60 or 90 seconds, I shut the door and I got everybody back in our storage area and in my office. Final count, I think we had like 65 in my room.
Standing there on the side of the classroom opening the door, trying to get as many of them as I can in, and seeing more of them running, at what point do you say, “I can’t leave this door open? I don’t know what else is going to be coming through there.” And then just watching the rest of the kids run by and just tell them keep running, keep running as you’re shutting the door, it’s hard.
We had all the kids sit down, so that they were not all standing and huddling and hyperventilating.
And you could hear all the shots going off. There were so many of them. It would get really quiet, then you’d hear more going off.
One of the teachers that was in my room had a walkie talkie because she was one of the coaches. So we were listening over the walkie talkie, everything that was going on. They were trying to locate where the shooter was. We were concentrating a lot on the walkie talkie. All you could hear is, “Where is he at? Is he here? He’s got a gas mask on. He’s throwing gas bombs. We don’t know what room he’s going into.” It was very scary sitting so close to this and hearing it go over. It was utter chaos.
Then you’d hear more gunshots go off.
We stayed there. I had my laptop pulled up and a couple kids found some live streams from the helicopters that were going around. We pulled that up and had the kids be as quiet as they could.
We just tried to watch that and at the same time told the kids: “Text your friends. Find out where everybody’s at. We were doing check ins with all the kids that we knew we had.”