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Save the Recordings of School Shootings

By Charlie Warzel, writing for the New York Times:

You can’t see much in the haunting video of Tuesday’s shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colo. — just darkness and an eerie voice repeating a prerecorded warning over a loudspeaker. “Attention please. Lockdown. Lock, lights, out of sight.”

Two videos with a combined runtime of 82 seconds were published Wednesday by BuzzFeed News. They were recorded by 15-year-old student Lillian Duarte, who also shared text messages exchanged between her and family members during the 20 minutes she hid behind a desk during the active shooting.

The news media has been notoriously reticent about showing graphic images of mass shootings. But the students caught in the gun violence plaguing American schools are not. Ms. Duarte’s videos and texts are the latest example of students documenting what it’s like to live through a school shooting for all to see online.

While it is encouraging to see the news amplify the students’ accounts, there needs to be a broad effort to collect and preserve these firsthand accounts of America’s mass shooting epidemic. Otherwise the horror, as witnessed by the victims, may be lost to the digital ether.

It’s not always clear if all of what is shared is initially meant for a wider audience — some of the tweets, and videos posted and shared across networks like Twitter and Snap appear to be updates for fellow students. But the result is visceral and affecting in a way that media coverage of school shootings can never truly capture. By broadcasting for the world to see in all caps, they break the well-worn routine of these events and force us to embody the chaos and terror in the first person.

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