United by mass killings, a group of friends and strangers sat down for breakfast.
It was a change of scenery for James Shaw Jr, who wrestled an AR-15 from a gunman in a Waffle House in the US state of Tennessee last month, which authorities said likely stopped the murder spree that left four people dead.
The 29-year-old found himself in the state of Florida on Saturday, trading the Waffle House for a Denny’s restaurant with some company - students from Parkland.
“[T]he Most Legendary Breakfast ive ever had in my life,” Emma González said on Twitter afterward.
It was in response to a similarly glowing sign of affection.
“I met one of my heros today,” Shaw wrote on Twitter, with a photo of him posing with González and a blue-checked teddy bear. “Meeting the young adults of the Parkland incident so much fire and inspiration in their eyes was a great joy,” he said in a later tweet.
There were some other mass shootings between the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and the April 22 diner killings in Antioch, outside Nashville, Tennessee.
But those two incidents have stirred the American public in deep yet different ways.
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The shooting of 17 people in Parkland ignited unrelenting debate over the role of firearms in American life, renewed calls for gun-control measures and unleashed student activism led by González and others. That activism has caught on in ways rarely seen since the Vietnam War.
The Waffle House killing, by contrast, is a story of heroism and small miracles in a mass shooting - a tragedy rarely ended with bystander intervention. In a brief lull during the killings, Shaw rushed the gunman and tore away his rifle. The piping hot barrel burned his hands. The gunman then fled and was apprehended a day later by authorities.
González has been perhaps the most prominent figure among the Parkland students, joined by David Hogg. He was also on hand for the breakfast that included more than a dozen people who appear to be students.
“Wow just, wow,” Hogg wrote on Twitter after the breakfast, “lots of work ahead but the young people will win.”
Shaw, a father of two, harnessed his fame into a GoFundMe drive for the Waffle House victims hours after the incident occurred.
He started with a modest goal of US$15,000. But his story was covered across the world, and the world responded in kind. He has raised more than US$240,000 in 20 days.
Shaw’s story is still resonating. But he seems focused to keep going with his story beyond the drive.
“Thank you great meeting you all, let’s keep inspiring and bringing [people] together,” he wrote on Twitter to the students.