When freshman Braden survived last week’s shooting spree that killed 17 of his classmates, as well as adults, at his Parkland, Florida, high school, there was one person he knew who could understand the horrors he experienced: his father.
Less than five months ago, Branden’s father, John Freidkes, managed to escape harm at the Las Vegas, Nevada, mass shooting that killed more than 50 people.
Despite the shared experience of survival, the elder Freidkes still doesn’t know what to say to his son, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“My parents never had to talk to me about situations like this,” Freidkes told WRAL TV on Monday. “You get up every morning and you’re afraid to turn on the news.”
Freidkes was around the area of the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 when he saw a crowd of people running towards him yelling “there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter!’”
He managed to escape the shooting by hailing a taxi cab and driving away.
Braden’s favorite teacher, Scott Beigel, was one of the 17 people killed in the massacre. Beigel attempted to provide refuge for a student from the shooting, but the gunman shot him through the classroom doorway before he could lock the door.
A week later, Braden feels he let his teacher down.
“What really hurt me is that I passed every test, but the last one I did bad on and that’s how it ended for me,” he told CNN. “I was super sad to kind of let him down on that.”
After last week’s tragedy, Freidkes thought twice about sending Braden back to school and considered homeschooling him instead.
Eventually, he decided against it.
“You can’t live in fear,” he told CNN.
Now, the Freidkes are among the many Floridians calling on politicians to put the needs of the community first and make sure that shootings like the ones they experience never happen again.
“It’s got to stop. There’s got to be a way,” Freidkes said. “Our political leaders that we vote for work for us, not for lobbyists, and they need to remember that.”