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Florida student’s grandfather survived 1949 mass shooting

February 16, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 6, 1949, file photo, Howard Unruh, center, is held by police after he gunned down 13 adults and children in Camden, N.J. Carly Novell, a student who survived the Florida high school shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, tweeted photos Thursday of her late grandfather Charles Cohen, saying she hid in a closet to escape just like Cohen did at the age of 12 during the 1949 shooting rampage. (AP Photo, File)

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A student who survived the shooting at a Florida school hid in a closet — just like her grandfather did to escape a 1949 shooting rampage in New Jersey.

Carly Novell tweeted a photo and said she hid in a closet just like her grandfather, Charles Cohen, did nearly 70 years ago when he was 12 and a gunman killed his family.

Howard Unruh gunned down 13 people, including Cohen’s parents and paternal grandmother, during what was called his “Walk of Death” through Camden. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, he spent the rest of his life in a state psychiatric hospital. He confessed to the killings but was never tried. He died in 2009.

Cohen’s daughter, Lori Greenberg, tells the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill her father didn’t like talking about the attack with his family.

“He wanted to live the rest of his life and not let this define him,” Greenberg said. “But I think not talking about it and letting it be repressed is much worse.”

She says her niece Carly met with counselors and is “doing OK” after Wednesday’s shooting left 17 dead.

“She’s a remarkable young lady, but this is hard on her,” Greenberg said. “Carly did lose a friend. A friend of hers saw two people shot dead.”

Novell told HuffPost that she didn’t even learn about the Camden killings until after her grandfather died, also in 2009.

“But family was so incredibly important to him because of what happened,” she said. “He wasn’t as lucky as me.”

Cohen told The Associated Press in 1999 that the killings haunted him.

“My memories don’t dim,” he told the AP. “Do you know how many times in 50 years I’ve relived that story? It could have been yesterday.”

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