RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This morning, Parkland, Fla., joins an increasingly long list of communities in this country that have found themselves victimized by a mass shooting. The shooter was a former student in this case. Yesterday, he went into the school, heavily armed, and started firing. When it was all over, 17 people were dead. About an hour later, the gunman was in police custody.
We have three voices this morning from students who were there. They are Brandon Minoff and twin sisters Madison (ph) and Mackenzie (ph) Carew.
BRANDON MINOFF: It was a normal class day in last period. And with five minutes left in class, the fire alarm went off.
MADISON CAREW: So we all went out, and apparently, that's when the shooter started shooting.
MACKENZIE CAREW: One of the teachers grabbed me and put me in the office with, like, 50 other kids.
MADISON: I saw every single teacher hiding behind a chair.
MINOFF: There was gunshots, so we started evacuating. We made our way outside.
MADISON: They made us run out off of campus as fast as we could.
MACKENZIE: I just headed to the Parkland Library, and I called my mom on their phone, and I told her to come get me.
MARTIN: Madison and Mackenzie eventually reunited with their mother, Alison Carew, who told NPR that she is grateful that school staff kept her daughters safe.
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ALISON CAREW: These teachers, you know, ran, got all the kids that they could see and shoved them somewhere safe and locked them away so that they didn't get hurt.
MARTIN: The shooting happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and it is the deadliest school shooting in this country since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
NPR's Sarah McCammon is in Parkland, Fla., and she has been learning more about what happened. Sarah, President Trump has been on Twitter this morning talking about the shooting. What has he said?
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, so far, he has ordered flags to be flown at half-mast, as is often done for past mass shootings. And on Twitter, he said, quote, "so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again."
So the president is focusing on the question of mental health, which is a common refrain after these shootings, especially among opponents of gun rights restrictions, who tend to focus on mental health as the issue - or as the primary issue.
I should also mention, Rachel, that President Trump will be - we'll be hearing more from him later this morning. He is planning to address the nation on this topic.
MARTIN: And also planning, still, to fly to Mar-a-Lago at some point today?
MCCAMMON: That's what we're hearing.
MARTIN: On a pre-scheduled trip. He may visit survivors of the shooting. What do we know, Sarah, at this point about the victims of this massacre?
MCCAMMON: Well, in total, we're told that 17 have been confirmed dead. Two of them died at the hospital. As of last night, about half a dozen other people were being treated for injuries. There hasn't been an update in a while on their conditions. But we do know that among the dead, the victims include both students and adults - not a lot of details yet. We're told authorities have been in the process of identifying all those who've died and are going to release those names after families have been notified.
We do know that a football coach at the high school was among those who died. And authorities say that one of the difficulties in identifying the victims has been the fact that people did just rush out of the school, you know, in a huge hurry to flee the scene, and dropped belongings. And so in some cases, it's been difficult to identify some of the bodies because their belongings are not with them.
We are expecting an update, though, in just over an hour or so from state and local officials, so we may have more on that later this morning.
MARTIN: Understanding all of this is evolving, but at this point, what can you tell us about the shooter? We know he's in custody. What else do we know about who he is?
MCCAMMON: Well, authorities are still looking into the motive and piecing together timelines. He's 19 years old. His name is Nikolas Cruz. He is facing at least 17 charges of premeditated murder, and he is expected in court this afternoon here in South Florida.
School officials said he'd been enrolled at the high school at one time but had been expelled for disciplinary reasons and was attending school elsewhere in the district. But investigators are still looking into everything that happened yesterday and why.
MARTIN: Classes, we understand, are canceled at the high school for the rest of the week, and the grievance counselors, no doubt, are on the scene. NPR's Sarah McCammon reporting this morning from Parkland, Fla. Thank you so much, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.