Florida massacre victims remembered

Senior fire fighter Jeremy Cowan with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and activist Delaney Tarr at the Firefighters Reserve.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Elee Siev was sitting in the 900 building in her afternoon marine science class on February 14 when everything changed.

She had her headphones on as former student Nikolas Cruz went into another part of the Florida school and gunned down more than 30 people, killing 17.

“I had no idea what was happening. I didn’t hear anything,” Elee said.

POIGNANT: Student Volunteer Army member Chloe Fraser, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Elee Siev and Madison Leal, planting a Totara tree at Halswell Quarry Park in memory of Gina Montalto.

But that day changed everything, prompting the survivors to start the international #NeverAgain movement calling for tighter gun control.

The 16-year-old is among a group of 28 survivors in Christchurch to meet with the Student Volunteer Army to share their experiences of mobilising after tragedies and to attend a youth leadership summit.

“I hope to gain the skills I will need to help and to plan out charity events. I’m really passionate about the #NeverAgain movement and the stuff we’ve been doing with gun control, and fundraising and volunteering work,” she said.

On Tuesday, Elee planted one of 17 totara trees in Halswell Quarry Park with help from fellow student Madison Leal, 15, and SVA member Chloe Fraser, to honour Gina Montalto, who was one of the 14 students and three teachers killed.

Elee said Gina was a “really positive person” and on her colour guard team.

“We had practice every single day together. It’s like your second family.”

The students also visited Christchurch City Fire Station and the Firefighters Reserve on Tuesday. They met some firefighters who helped in the aftermath of the February 22, 2011, earthquake.

Fire risk management officer Wayne Hamilton gifted each of the students a fire service patch, and gave the group two books on the 9/11 memorial and the fire service’s history.

SVA vice president Emma Pratt said the students were “inspiring.”

“We’re learning from each other.”

Survivor Delaney Tarr, who has become a well-known activist, is among the group visiting Christchurch.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting was the third deadliest school shooting in United States history.

Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.