A PARKLAND survivor has described his terror hiding in a closet as school shooter Nikolas Cruz opened fire, killing 17 students and staff.
Lewis Mizen, now 22, spoke with The Sun to mark the four year anniversary of the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
He told how he spent two hours crammed inside a small space at the back of his classroom after at first thinking the alarm was just a drill.
And he described the moment he opened the door of the closet to cops fearing that the gunman lay in wait.
Mizen – who is now a college student in Florida State University – admits that for a long while after the mass murder he thought of it every day.
He added: "I do not think about it everyday now and I certainly used to.
"It was just a gradual shift.
"I can now talk about it without getting upset. But I know it upsets my parents still."
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Lewis said the day had started out as a normal Valentine's Day at the school in Parkland, Florida.
But towards the end of the day an alarm sounded across the school.
He added: "It was only a week before that they had new implemented responses to fire and active shootings so we thought it was a fire drill.
"Even after we realized it wasn’t a fire drill we thought it was a shooting drill.
"It took me a while to realize it was very real."
'WE THOUGHT IT WAS A DRILL'
Lewis says he and his friends initially left their classroom thinking it was a practice for an active shooter event.
But they were quickly told to go back, where they then hid under their desks before making their way to the closet.
Lewis said: "We were crammed in.
"There were a couple of people in other grades who were pulled in there with us but most of us were friends from the same class.
"So we tried to keep morale up. The teacher who was in the closet with us that day actually text the other day to see how we are
"There is still that sense of comradery there, it bonds you."
After two hours huddled in the closet, Lewis says they heard a call to come out by someone identifying themselves as police.
'I SAW A GUN'
Lewis told The Sun that was the scariest part of the day for him as he weighed up whether it could be the gunman pretending to be a cop.
He added: "We did have that conversation, we didnt know how many shooters there were, there were rumors of more, we didnt know if they were actually police.
"In that moment I was genuinely terrified
"I was closest to the door and when we opened it we genuinely did not know who it was on the other side
"The first thing I saw was a gun. It was thankfully a police gun.
"But I have friends who did not open the door to police because they were so scared."
After being led to safety Lewis was able to text his parents – something he had not been able to do in the closet after losing signal.
He added: "It felt shorter than two hours that we were in there
"But I had lost signal so my parents had been frantically texting me, in terms of lasting mental damage I think it has impacted them much more."
After being moved to safety in the school library, the teenagers were finally reunited with their parents.
It was then that they realized classmates were unaccounted for and the identity of the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, first came to light.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
A jury must still decide whether he will be executed or receive a life sentence without parole.
The trial is expected to last at least two months and is scheduled for April.
Speaking in October last year Lewis said he hopes Cruz gets the death penalty.
"He will never be of any value to society," the Parkland survivor told The Sun. "For its flaws, Florida has the death penalty for a reason.
"And if you aren't going to use it on someone like him, then who would you use it on?"
"I cannot name the last time I thought of him. And I think that's the best thing for him. He should be scratched from history."
For Lewis, he says the support his family means that the event no longer "defines" him.
But he says he has not celebrated Valentine's Day since.
He added: "There is no one left at the school who was a student there at the time, a lot of the staff and teachers have also changed.
"I am trying to move on in the most positive way.
"You notice that it might come up in small comments and people who don’t will ask what you mean.
"Nobody knows what to say when they do find out."
"For a while it the defining point in my life, it’s become something that happened in my past now
"I am very lucky that I’ve always been able to talk to my parents about it, I never had to hide how I was feeling."
PAYING TRIBUTE TO VICTIMS
Teacher Scott Beigel, 35, athletic director Christopher Hixon, 49, assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 37, and 14 students ranging in age from 14 to 18 were killed during the deadly shooting.
Students Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, 17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Luke Hoyer, 15, and 14-year-old Cara Loughran were killed in the carnage.
Gina Montalto, 14, Joaquin Oliver, 17, Alaina Petty, 14, Meadow Pollack, 18, Helena Ramsay, 17, Alexander Schachter, 14, Carmen Schentrup, 16, and 15-year-old student Peter Wang also lost their lives that day.
Seventeen others were wounded during the horror ordeal.
"I always think the best way to honor those who lost their lives is to live your life to the fullest for them," Lewis added.
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