SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The Parkland, Florida school shooting in February 2018 was a devastating tragedy covered by hundreds of journalists. One reporter, a South Bend native, won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage.
"You can just feel the panic everywhere. I mean students that were -- there was a cry that I don't think I'll ever forget of all of the students crying."
Aric Chokey was one of the first journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day in 2018.
"I was just outside of the school grounds. They had a staging area," the Riley High School graduate said.
Chokey is a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel in southern Florida. He was one of the first journalists on scene after a former student opened fire on the Parkland campus.
Amid the chaos, the South Bend native rushed to find students. He met one close enough to hear gunshots and recounted the student's story:
"When the SWAT team came in, he'd told me how the SWAT members had told him to keep his eyes forward and don't look at the ground, because that's where where the victims were lying," he said.
In monthslong coverage, as the Sentinel staff went to funerals and memorials, a new mission appeared: find out how and why this happened.
Chokey calls this a systemwide failure.
"There were sheriff's deputies that didn't go in and try to stop the shooter, despite that being normal protocol," he said. "Resources that were available to the shooter himself. He had been in and out of alternative school, and he had been seen by counselors. There was a lack of intervention."
The investigative reports of the Sun-Sentinel staff earned Chokey and his team a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.
And 20 years after the Columbine shooting, Chokey feels there still more progress to be made.
"Like us, for example, we're still looking at how mental health resources are being expanded," he said. "I think that's a conversation that needs to be talked about a lot more."