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Surviving Mass Shootings Draws 2 Floridians Together


More than a month after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., many people are still searching for answers about what happened there, and why and what to do about it. And in the course of that journey, some people who have lost friends, and loved ones and classmates to other incidents of gun violence are finding each other. My next two guests met because they're both members of a club nobody wants to join. They're survivors of mass shootings. They met at a memorial for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. That's where 49 people were killed in 2016 when a man opened fire inside.

Neema Bahrami was inside the Pulse nightclub that day. He was at the memorial paying his respects to those who were killed. Annabel Claprood also visited the Pulse nightclub memorial with her mother earlier this month, where she met Neema. Annabel is a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and she was inside the school that day when 17 people were shot and killed. Annabel and Neema, thank you both so much for speaking with us.

NEEMA BAHRAMI: Thank you for having me.

ANNABEL CLAPROOD: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: And would it be OK if I started by saying I'm just so sorry for what you've both been through? This should never have happened - this shouldn't have happened to anybody. And I just wanted to start by saying that. And, Annabel, I'm going to ask you first - do you mind if I ask how you're doing?

CLAPROOD: I'm doing as good as I can be. I think it's really great I have support from other survivors and people that really understand what I went through.

MARTIN: And, Neema, what about you? I understand that you've been attending the trial of the wife of the shooter, Omar Mateen, that started on Wednesday. I don't know what that's like for you - if it's bringing up some things. Does it make it better or does it make it worse?

BAHRAMI: You know, for me, it's - we want justice. And sitting in that courtroom has been challenging, but I'm there for a reason. I'm there to see us get justice.

MARTIN: So, Annabel, tell me how the two of you met.

CLAPROOD: We met at the memorial for Pulse. I was coming back from Tallahassee, and we decided to stop by and show our support.

BAHRAMI: And when she got off the bus, I gave her a hug, and I welcomed actually everybody that came off the bus. And they came up to me and said, you know, she's one of the survivors. And I went up to her because she was having her moment. And I had a little chat with her, and I told her, you know, we have to keep putting our heads up, and we have to keep fighting for what's right and what's important. And I just - her spirit got me.

MARTIN: Annabel, do you remember that?

CLAPROOD: Yes. He definitely helped me a lot. I don't think he really knows how much our conversation meant.

MARTIN: I understand that you guys exchanged numbers. And have you been, you know, texting? I assume it's texting.

CLAPROOD: Every now and then.


CLAPROOD: Not as often as I wish. But it's been very busy around here.

MARTIN: Well, just mentioning that you were coming from Tallahassee because you were part of the very large group of students who - and parents - who wanted to meet with the members of the state legislature to talk about steps that you want to see happen, Neema, I just have to ask what it's like for you knowing that this group of young people is now going through something that you went through, you know, as an adult.

BAHRAMI: You know, it's heartbreaking because it seems like it's our normal now - that what's happening in our world - every day, there's a shooting. It's - it needs to stop. It's time for us to put the certain laws in place where people can't buy rifles that are meant for war. It's time for us to really put effort into telling our congressmen, telling our people that can help us change these laws that we need to fix this.

MARTIN: And without intruding in your personal conversations, Annabel, I wondered if you might share any of the advice that you might have gotten that has perhaps been helpful to you.

CLAPROOD: To be strong and fight for what you believe in. And it really means a lot to hear that, and it pushes me to fight for the 17 lives that can't fight anymore.

MARTIN: And, Neema, I have to say this was - the Pulse shooting was in June of 2016, so we're going on two years now for you. Do you feel like you're back to who you were?

BAHRAMI: You know, I started my Latin night back up at a location here called Stonewall in downtown Orlando. They were gracious enough to open the doors to the Latin community that I was promoting for. And you know, to watch everybody dance again was just inspiring to me. And that's where I kind of felt like I got my happy back a little bit. I mean, Annabel - I always told her, too - Annie (ph), I said, go to school, try to find that happy back, and we love you. You know, we have to keep encouraging people. That's the most important thing.

MARTIN: Well, thanks so much for sharing that. That's Neema Bahrami. He joined us from Orlando, Fla. And Annabel Claprood joined us from Coral Springs. Thank you both so much for speaking with us. And, you know, our very best wishes to you both. And we will keep good thoughts for you and for all of your friends.

CLAPROOD: Thank you.

BAHRAMI: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.