Parkland Shooting Survivor Nick Vaccarezza and Family Plan Fundraiser
February 21, 2018
Original Story: America’s Best Racing/Dan Tordjman
When a shooter terrorized Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last week, Nick Vaccarezza had only one thing on his mind — the safety of his younger brother, Mike.
Both Nick, an 18-year-old senior at the school, and Mike, a 16-year-old sophomore, were in separate buildings but could hear the gunfire. The brothers, sons of Breeders’ Cup-winning owner Carlo Vaccarezza, were fortunate enough to locate one another and avoid physical harm.
Many of the survivors of the high school shooting have come away from it with a profound sense of obligation to their 17 classmates who were senselessly killed. The Vaccarezza family is rallying its community — including those in the racing world — around a fundraiser this Sunday from 2-9 p.m. ET at Carlo Vaccarezza’s Boca Raton, Fla., restaurant, Frank and Dino’s. Their goal is to raise at least $50,000 for the families of the victims.
Dan Tordjman, founder of Danonymous Racing and correspondent for America’s Best Racing, spoke with Nick Vaccarezza about what happened exactly one week ago, his relief upon safely reuniting with his brother, and how the public can support the effort the Vaccarezzas are leading in Florida.
America’s Best Racing: If you can, tell us where you and your brother were when there were first signs of trouble? What were you thinking and how did you react?
Nick Vaccarezza: We weren’t in the building where the shooting was happening. When the building we were in was being evacuated, we thought it was a normal fire drill. We just followed the normal procedure. We were lining up outside with our class and what we started hearing was gunfire.
My initial reaction is to find my brother. So, I start calling him on FaceTime and I said, “meet me at the softball [field] dugout. I’m not leaving here without you.” He was pretty sharp about that and he came to where I was pretty quickly.
The school had told our parents before that we would have a “shooter drill.” So, initially everyone was thinking that this was a drill. My friend got a call from his mom [while we were outside] telling him that this was not a drill, that we were on TV and this was serious. Once he got off the phone with his mom, without hesitation we hopped the fence, ran to the school next door and got as far away as we could.
Dan Tordjman: Surely, not all of this has set in yet, but please describe what the past week has been like for you.
Nick Vaccarezza: If you’ve ever been to Parkland or you’ve heard of it, it’s just such a quiet little town that no one would’ve ever thought that this was going to happen — until it did. I read somewhere that we were one of the top safest schools in all of Florida and number three in the country, and then this happens.
Most of the students who passed away were acquaintances. I knew some of them very fondly, including Joaquin Oliver. We went to the same homecoming party. He was actually one of my good friends. So, it’s hard losing him and seeing all of my other friends who were mutual friends with him, it’s hard seeing them because they lost him, too. It’s just gut-wrenching.
Tordjman: Many of the survivors have turned to activism and protest in the wake of the shooting to honor the memory of the victims. How about you? How do you heal?
Vaccarezza: I support the Second Amendment and all it stands for. But there does need to be some type of change. Why should I, as an 18-year-old, be able to buy an AR-15 (semiautomatic rifle) when I can’t play a slot machine or buy a beer? What would an 18-year-old need to be doing with that?
Tordjman: In terms of taking action, for you and your family, it’s in the form of fundraising for the victims and their families. Tell us about that.
Vaccarezza: My dad is doing a fundraiser at his restaurant (39 SE 1st Ave, Boca Raton, FL 33432) and he’s trying to raise as much money as he can for the victims, as well as those dealing with post-traumatic stress, and to raise awareness about mental illness. I know that there’s no amount of money that can fully help, but we’re trying to help as much as we can. There was a suggested donation minimum of $50 (the event includes food and drink) but I’m sure people will give more because they want to help as much as they can.
Note: Those who were unable to attend the fundraiser may call Frank and Dino’s Restaurant (561-218-4636) to make a donation.