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‘The new norm’: Florida residents reel from latest gun violence

Sitting on a beach towel under a palm tree sounds like a glamorous way to spend your morning.

Not for 23-year-old Lulu Ramadan.

Perched on the edge of a busy parking lot, next to the school where a 19-year-old allegedly murdered 17 people earlier this week, the Palm Beach Post reporter pounds out a story on her laptop.

It's the third mass shooting she has covered in less than two years.

"Regrettably it has become familiar so I know what I am getting into — I know what the scene will look like, I know what people will say and what they will describe. It is just a product of seeing it so many times," she says.

"It has sadly become a fill-in-the-blank story, where you go into it and the details are different. It happens in a school, or an airport or a nightclub, or wherever it is — the difference is just where, when, and why, and how many people are killed."

Since working for the Post, Ramadan has reported on an airport shooting at Fort Lauderdale, which left five dead, the Pulse nightclub massacre in which 49 people were killed, and now this week's attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

She rushes down to the police cordon for Democrat senator Bill Nelson's press conference.

Squatting among dozens of reporters in the hot Florida sun, she records on her phone.

Senator Nelson's comments are predictable. He calls for his peers — and the American people — to push for greater gun control. He has said it before, and no doubt will again.

"I think some of the saddest and the most tragic stories I had to write are people, not just the reporters being desensitised but the victims and the people themselves looking at this and realising that it's the new norm," she says.

Ramadan has lived in the area her whole life, and is not long out of high school herself.

It's times like this the personal and the professional intersect.

"I went to high school not far from here, and so … you have to think about how is it that 10 years ago, when some of us are in school, we could never have imagined … this happening in our own school," she says.

"And you know again, it's tragically the new norm."

As a press conference at the police cordon wraps up, she rushes back to her spot under the palm tree to file her story.

A woman holds an iPhone up to film a man in a suit while he's speaking.

On the way she spots former congressman Patrick Murphy and stops him for an interview.

As she finishes, Mr Murphy's media advisor mentions that Ramadan has covered three mass shootings and she's only been in the job two years.

"It's crazy," Mr Murphy says.

"Thanks for what you are doing," he says, reaching out to shake her hand before walking off to the bank of TV cameras waiting for him.

'I had this experience people couldn't relate to'

Until last week, Annika Dean had spent the past year walking the manicured streets of her neighbourhood in Parkland estate feeling incredibly alone.

In January 2017, she was at the Fort Lauderdale airport when a gunman opened fire.

She survived by jumping behind a baggage cart, and a stranger jumped on top of her and said he would keep her safe. Five people died.

"It has taken me all year to process the airport shooting, and I did feel that I am the only one in my community," she says.

"I felt alone in a way, that I had this experience that I felt that people couldn't relate to."

Not anymore.

She lives a few blocks from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where her son is a student.

A woman stands in front of a two-storey home and looks sternly off camera

"After what happened in Marjory Stoneman Douglas, my entire community can relate now and it's very sad," she says.

"I wish they couldn't."

Her 14-year-old son Austin survived the school shooting.

During the massacre, he texted her from the classroom and said he loved her in case he didn't make it.

Several of his friends were killed. Ms Dean says he's been more affectionate towards her in the days since.

"He is still processing," she says.

The airport shooting hasn't stopped Ms Dean doing the things she loves, like going to the movies and concerts.

But those experiences have a new level of anxiety now, and she fears it will be the same for her son and neighbours.

A portrait of Jesus is among the religious artworks hanging on a wall. Another reads: Even the waves obey His voice

The concerts she's been to — Coldplay and Paul McCartney — have been tainted by her inability to let her kids go to the concession stand in case something happens and she is separated from them. Loud noises at the grocery store scare her.

She went to a movie in the months after the shooting — a tame one, but three of the previews had guns in them.

"I wasn't prepared for it," she says.

Ms Dean is stoic, but when she talks about the shooting, her eyes almost glaze over and it feels like her head is in a different place.

"We just can't continue to have so much violence," she says.

"I attended the vigil last night across the street from my home, and there are a lot of people who are very angry. I'm angry … something needs to be done."

Vigil for Florida school shooting victims

'I realised that I might die'

For a 17-year-old, David Hogg is alarmingly TV savvy.

As soon as the cameraman says he is recording, David recites his name, his age and class.

During the interview, he automatically pauses when a loud noise like a plane or motorbike passes. He picks up exactly where he left off.

David Hogg was inside the school when the shooting began

He talks about being in class when the fire alarm went off, then hearing gunshots.

He and his classmates ran out of the building, only to be confronted by "a tsunami of humanity" running the other way, telling them to turn around.

He hid in a kitchen, and started recording testimonies — video of him and his classmates on his phone — in case they didn't make it out alive.

"I realised that I might die, along with everybody else in there and that really shook me to the core. I thought what is my legacy? What has my life been about?" he says.

His story is shocking, but it sounds a bit rehearsed. He says he knows he sounds like he is "reading cue cards" and puts it down to having done dozens, if not more than 100 interviews, in the past two days.

In honour of the 17 people who died, he says he is now committed to speaking out in the hope of convincing politicians to stop taking money from pro-gun lobby groups.

"They absolutely value guns more than kids," he says.

"It's disgusting. I hate it.

"Honestly, if the only way you can get elected is by getting political contributions, following the agenda of special interest groups [that] want to relax gun regulations, for example, and enact policies that make it even easier to get a gun over children's lives, what is wrong with you?"

David Hogg talks to couple Jandy and Rob Spiegelman.

As we talk, a local couple, Jandy and Rob Spiegelman, approach David and shake his hand.

"He's great," Mr Spiegelman says, saying he's seen David speaking out on TV.

"He can make a difference one day, you know?"

David is polite and gracious, but when they thank him for what he is doing his response is instant: "You can do something too."

A sign behind a floral tribute says 'make school safe no guns 4 kids'

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