Maddy Wilford was shot three times during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th.
When rescuers found Wilford, they thought that she was among the 17 victims who had already died. But she survived — and today, she was able to finally leave the hospital.
Surrounded by her parents, surgeons, and the paramedic who saved her, Wilford took the opportunity to raise her voice.
"I'm Madeline Wilford," she began. "I would just like to say that I'm so grateful to be here."
Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Wilford thanked her physicians as well as classmates and strangers for the overwhelming love she's received.
Doctors said that if rescuers had stuck with their initial plan to drive Wilford to a hospital 30 miles away, she likely would not have survived. Instead, a fire-rescuer made a split-second decision to take her to a much closer facility 10 miles away. "She's very lucky, very, very lucky," said Broward Health North medical director Igor Nichiporenko.
It's a strong reminder that the tragedy reached beyond victims and their families and impacted the rescuers, doctors, specialists, and volunteers who labored tirelessly to save as many students as possible from the attack.
"It wouldn’t be possible without those officers and first responders and these amazing doctors," Wilford said. "And just all the love that’s been passed around. I definitely wouldn’t be here without it,” she said.
Her family said they're hopeful the tragedy can become a larger opportunity for building community.
Despite the pain and fear their family has experienced in the wake of the Parkland tragedy, Wilford's parents said the outreach of support has also given them a reason to be hopeful moving forward.
"I see this as, yes it is a tragedy, but I would like to try to find a way to find the positive in what has happened here in our community,” said Wilford's mother, Missy. "We have had an outpouring from people that we don’t know, people that now I consider to be our friends."
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas community has already shown that they're determined to become a powerful united force for change.
And as many of her classmates have made headlines speaking out in favor of gun control, Wilford has been watching and supporting from her hospital bed.
It started with frustrated survivors speaking out on cable news and holding demonstrations. Then, Wilford herself was visited in hospital by President Donald Trump, who later surprised some by expressing a willingness to support gun control measures, and infuriated many others by using a photo of the visit to raise campaign money.
All told, Wilford's classmates have presented a united front in starting a movement for gun control, perhaps most visibly in the form of a televised town hall where students and the families of victims confronted politicians and a NRA spokeswoman over their failure to take meaningful action.
"Like my mom says, it’s times like these when we all need to stay together,” she said. "I've seen a lot of positive posts about what's going on at school. I just love the fact that we’re sticking together after this."
As Wilford heads home to rejoin her school community, millions of others across the country are rallying to do the same.
Wilford will be re-entering a community that's been forever changed by tragedy — but has also been propelled into action that has quickly scaled to a national level. What began as an increasingly common attack has now become a country-wide movement, one that will draw hundreds of thousands of people to Washington to march in support of gun control measures later this month.
It's an incredibly powerful thing to watch student survivors like Wilford display strength for their cause on a public stage. And as they continue to rally for a safer nation, millions of their fellow citizens are joining them in sending a clear message: never again.