Hopeful and anxious, Parkland students brace for emotional return to school

Florida shooting survivors return to school
Florida shooting survivors return to school 02:53

Exactly two weeks ago 17 people died in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students there are returning to classes for the first time since the massacre. 

"I think everyone is a little bit nervous to go," sophomore Liam Kiernan told CBS News' Adriana Diaz. "I see tomorrow as the beginning of change and we will be the people to do it."

Returning to school was all the 15-year-old could think about as he ate dinner with his family Tuesday night. But he says he's not afraid. Liam, along with more than 3,000 other Stoneman Douglas students, will attend a half day of 24-minute classes. Extra security and counselors will be on hand. 

"I am ready go back to school but I'm feeling a little scared and a little nervous. Like, right now my heart's pounding because I'm hearing cop vehicles pass behind me and it's reminding me of that day," freshman Kelsey Friend told "CBS This Morning."

She says her life was saved by her geography teacher, Scott Beigel, who died trying to shield his students from the gunman. Kelsey calls Biegel's mom every day after school, something he used to do.  

"I just want to have his spirit alive. And if calling his mom and doing what he did when he was alive does that, then I am going to do it as well to keep him with me for the rest of my life," Friend said. "I just wish it was a dream, one bad dream that I could just wake up from. And now knowing that I'm going back to school, I'm realizing it's not no dream, it actually happened, which is hitting me harder than when it happened." 

Still, Kelsey says she can't imagine herself in any other high school. 

Fla. school shooting survivor "nervous" 04:15

"We just aren't quite sure yet what the new normal is," said AP Psychology teacher Lisa Chauvin. She's taught at Stoneman Douglas for 26 years.  
 
"We're not really sure what to expect because everyone is coming with a different experience. Some students were directly involved in the events of that day," Chauvin said. "We're all human we're all in this together and we're going to go through the process of healing together."

Building 12, the crime scene, is blocked off by a fence covered with posters of support. No one will be allowed inside. The school board wants it torn down and a memorial built in its place.  

"I am just hoping it is going to a normal day. But I think there is going to be a somber mood," said senior Anisha Saripalli. She lost her close friend Carmen Schentrup in the Valentine's Day massacre. 

"She would always brighten everyone's day so now you know she is not here," Anisha said. "I am still trying to fight the fact that this happened because I am still in disbelief."

Wednesday is Anisha's 17th birthday. She told us she's thankful there's no lunch period this week so she doesn't have to sit without Carmen, who she used to have lunch with every other day. One teacher told us grief counselors will be in victims' classes to provide support for survivors. The school returns to a full day of classes next week.