The head of the largest Portland teachers union learned about the slaying of 17 people at a Parkland, Fla. high school last week before the terrible news started popping up in push notifications.
That's because Suzanne Cohen—the president of the Portland Association of Teachers—is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, class of 1994.
She learned about the shooting from a Facebook post by a fellow alum.
"I cried and reached out to my brother," she recalls. "He lives in Miami."
She says her next reaction was guilt—she felt bad that she was having a stronger reaction to this school shooting than to others in the past. But by the evening of the slaying, she was preparing for action.
"By the evening, I felt differently about being so upset," she says. "I don't know if 'fate' is the right word, but I'm in the unique position where I just took it as a call to action.
"I can't believe that the first time that we had to practice hiding in a closet and we started our active shooter drills that we all didn't become outraged. And every single one of us didn't just say: "This is ridiculous and we shouldn't do it. We should stop mass shootings."
Parkland students have now launched a campaign to end school shootings. Cohen enjoys a position of some political power in Portland —and is ready to fight alongside them from the other coast.
"I'm ready to dedicate my time to making sure kids don't get shot in schools anymore."
What needs to change?
"It's gun control," she says. "At the point where parents are afraid to send their kids to school, high school kids are afraid to go to school, and teachers are regularly preparing to take a bullet to save a child's life, we have to talk about gun control."
She hasn't chosen particular policy proposals, but thinks her local, state and national union should focus on the issue.
"The big switch is we tend to focus on education issues, and we're realizing that gun control is absolutely an education issue, and it is the most fundamental one," she says. "Families' most basic expectation is that their child comes home. And so we have to work on that as a top priority."
As to whether the change that the Parkland students are trying to make is likely to happen:
"A lot of educators have reached out," Cohen says. "It is feeling really different. I think people are ready. This has to be the last one."