But when gunshots rang out, the panic became real. She says she was rushed into a classroom by a coach and hid in a closet with a handful of other students. Gaffney is a survivor, but some of her friends are not.
Gaffney lost a close family friend, freshman Luke Hoyer and good friend Joaquin Oliver when a gunman opened fire in Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
In honor of the 17 lives lost, she got a pair of tattoos on her arm within days of the tragedy and says, “I like to be able to see mine (the tattoos) and know that they’re always there.” Gaffney says her mother – now closer to her than ever before – fully supported the permanent markings.
The weeks following the massacre have been tough for Gaffney, who says “When I go into a restaurant I’m sitting facing, my back to the door, I freak out. And when I’m walking in the hallways alone… I freak out because I don’t know what’s behind me.”
Madeline’s friend, 16-year-old Kayla Sanseverino, also lost peers and her cross country coach in the Parkland massacre.
After coach Scott Beigel died, Sanseverino says her team has really come together and wants to make a memorial run – like the one held days after the shooting – an annual event.
“I’ve never been very outspoken before. I don’t necessarily like public speaking, but I feel like it’s necessary. I need to get my voice out there for us to have a change and speak about our experiences,” says Sanseverino.
The two friends will both participate in the nationwide “March For Our Lives” rally, with Gaffney traveling to Washington, D.C., and Sanseverino marching in Parkland on March 24.