Charlie Shebes had too much anxiety to sleep the night before the first day of his junior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
It was the morning of his return after summer break to the campus where 17 people were shot to death. And the AP was there, because of the relationship video journalist Josh Replogle had cultivated with a group of students, starting nearly six months earlier.
Charlie wasn't one of the high-profile activist students who have courted the media. He was shy, and it took a while before he started opening up to Josh.
Charlie was part of a Jewish youth group that went to Tallahassee to lobby Florida state lawmaker in the weeks after the Feb. 14 shooting. Replogle covered the group in Tallahassee, and at a later march in Washington, he embedded with the students and started to build a connection with Charlie. Josh also got to know Charlie’s mother, which also helped him and his Miami colleague, photographer Wilfredo Lee, gain access.
Replogle started building a relationship with a group of the students six months earlier and embedded with them at a Washington march.
Shebes was willing to share his entire morning routine with Replogle and Lee. They were there as Charlie rubbed his eyes, ate breakfast, hugged his mother goodbye, brooded in the car and skateboarded to class on a newly locked down campus.
“I know the world probably already forgot about us, but I know law enforcement didn’t. I guess that’s all that matters,” Shebes said. “I just don’t want to be forgotten.”
“I saw bodies on the floor. I saw people on the walls, essentially, and I moved on, because I know it's not going to happen again, so I don’t really have to dwell on it aside from the fact that there are reminders everywhere.”
The short but poignant photo essay, along with text and an accompanying video piece, had an emotional impact, and the package received prominent play in Florida outlets including the Miami Herald, as well as nationally and even on some websites overseas.
For developing a compelling package from the unique perspective of a student returning to the scene of one the country's worst school shootings, Josh Replogle and Wilfredo Lee win this week’s Best of the States award.