A 17-year old girl who was shot four times in last week’s Florida shooting and lived to tell the story has opened up about the terrifying moment a gunman stormed into her school.
Madeleine Wilford, a junior at Stoneman Douglas High School, is back home with her family a week after she suffered critical wounds, including a collapsed lung, in the tragedy where 17 of her classmates and teachers died.
Speaking to the Deseret News, the basketball player said she was in her AP Psychology class when ‘all of a sudden shots went off’.
The gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was a few classrooms down from hers in the school’s freshman building, shooting through door windows as he made his way down the hall.
Madeleine recalled how frightened students dove to the floor in an attempt to get out of the line of sight of the door window as she wedged herself between the teacher’s podium and a desk.
As students scrambled to hide, she was pushed towards the middle of the room and into the line of fire.
‘All of a sudden I felt a shot hit me,’ said Wilford, adding that she doesn’t recall feeling the other three bullets.
‘I realized I was shot and an immense amount of pain went over me. The first thing I thought was that I was going to die. I was screaming, ‘Help me! Help me!’ I was frantic. I didn’t know what to do.’
Then, Madeleine recounted, she ‘felt a sense of peace’ before she slumped against a wall and blacked out.
First-responders then rushed to her side, slapping gunshot patches on her wounds to slow the blood loss.
To save her life, doctors put Madeleine on a ventilator, reattached three tendons in her right arm and fused titanium plates to her broken ribs.
Shortly after the shooting, her mother, Missy Cantrell Wilford, posted an emotional status thanking God for saving her daughter.
She wrote: ‘I have to thank my Lord and Savior for sparring my daughter’s life today. I feel Blessed beyond words, knowing that many didn’t survive.
‘She had [a bullet] that went through her back, crushing her ribs, piercing through her right lung and exiting through her stomach.
‘Several went through the shoulder and traveled the length of her right arm before exiting… Even after all of that, the bullets missed her liver, reproduction organs, heart, she could have been paralyzed. It is a miracle.’
Madeleine’s survival serves as a beacon of hope for the SWAT team that first helped her, who visited her at the hospital as she recovered.
‘She’s serving as a thing people can look to and see as a sign of hope,’ David Wilford told the Deseret News. ‘She was shot four times with an assault rifle at close range and now she’s sitting downstairs a week later with two friends from church, laughing. I can’t even believe it.’
President Trump and First Lady Melania visited Madeleine in the hospital last week and promised to give her a letter of recommendation for the college she wants to attend, Brigham Young University.
While Madeleine has surprised everyone with both her physical and emotional resilience, she did break down when talking about fellow Mormon Alaine Petty, 14, who died in the shooting.
Through tears, Madeleine said Alaine was ‘amazing’ and that she loved her.
‘She always lit up the room. She was always so lighthearted and spirited. She always made people laugh. It was rough losing her, finding out she was dead. I know she’s in a good place,’ she said.
Madeleine, who attended a week-long Mormon girl’s camp with Alaina, has stuck to her faith and said that spirituality and visitors from her church helped her while she was recovering from her injuries.
‘It was very spiritual,’ Wilford said of her hospital room. ‘There was an immense amount of peace throughout the room. The peace I felt really helped.’
Two weeks before the shooting, Madeleine gave a speech at a Mormon conference that would gain even more meaning after the tragedy.
‘Most people say they don’t believe in God because if there was a God, all these terrible things wouldn’t be happening,’ she recalled saying.
‘But that’s what we’re put on this earth to do, to endure a lifetime, and life’s going to be full of ups and downs. The only way we can make it better is to turn toward Christ and know that he always has a plan for us, and he’ll help us through it no matter what.’
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