The Jewish brothers were in different rooms when Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, raided its grounds on Wednesday, firing an automatic weapon.
They texted one another from places of hiding.
“Are you ok?” Sam asked.
“Hopefully,” Matthew answered. “Just know I love you.”
They survived, and Sam posted their exchange on Twitter and made clear the experience had changed him forever.
“Scariest part of it all was knowing my little brother was right above me and not knowing if I would ever see him again. I’ve never really treated him the way he deserved. Not anymore. Seeing his face outside of school was the most relief I had ever felt. My prayers to all.”
Scariest part of it all was knowing my little brother was right above me and not knowing if I would ever see him again. I’ve never really treated him the way he deserved. Not anymore. Seeing his face outside of school was the most relief I had ever felt. My prayers to all. pic.twitter.com/Iq8CHVNXd0
— Uncle Sam Zeif #Douglasstrong (@SzZeif) February 15, 2018
What Matthew witnessed also likely will never leave him.
“My teacher died,” he texted his big brother, “and he’s sitting in the doorway.”
His teacher was Scott Beigel, who died a hero as he slammed shut the classrom door to protect students from Cruz. Beigel was also a staff member at Camp Starlight, a predominately Jewish summer camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania.
The Zeif brothers’ mother, Jennifer, told the New York Times that Beigel saved Matthew’s life. Matthew was the last student Beigel ushered into the class before being shot.
“Mr. Beigel could have passed Matthew up and gone in the classroom first,” she said. “In that case, Matthew would have been the one in the doorway.”
Jennifer Zeif, before Wednesday, populated her social media mostly with posts about her three boys (there’s a younger sibling as well), and about enjoying bar mitzvahs and weddings and concerts with her husband, Doug. Her Pinterest page includes thoughts about raising boys, alongside Passover recipes.
Matthew texted his mom as well during the attack, The Daily Mail reported. “Mommy. Your the best thing that ever happened to me and just know. Keep living life.”
Then he added: “Call the police.”