When the first mass shooter in modern American history stormed into a Camden pharmacy firing a handgun on Sept. 6, 1949, Charles Cohen's mother rushed him upstairs and shoved him into a closet.

His father was already dead, and Cohen, just 12, watched his grandmother be gunned down before the door sealed him off. Seconds later, Cohen's mom was fatally shot, too, his whole world snuffed out by Howard Unruh, who killed 13 before he was done that day.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a nation where mass shootings now seem commonplace, a terrible irony connected Unruh's infamous "Walk of Death" to Nikolas Cruz's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Charles Cohen's granddaughter Carly Novell hid in a closet at the school to avoid being shot, just as her "grandpa" had done nearly 70 years ago. Novell, a 17-year-old senior at the school, tweeted out a photo of her grandfather after the incident, marking the sad irony.

On Friday morning, Novell's mother, Merri Cohen Novell, said in a telephone interview while preparing for a Douglas student's funeral that she grew up watching her father carry a heavy burden, always trying to smile through the scar Unruh had left on his psyche.

Charles Cohen, who died in 2009, was protective, his daughter said. He didn't want her to go running, or to venture off on ski trips. By day, he was a jovial salesman, knocking on doors with cases full of beauty products. At night at their home in Cherry Hill, he locked the doors.

"He was like a nervous grandmother," Novell told the Inquirer and Daily News. "He was a very loving, very caring man. He didn't walk around angry. He walked around with a heavy sadness."

Novell said her family's tragedy came "full circle" Wednesday when she received a text message from Carly: "Mom, I'm hiding in a closet. There's a code red. There's an active shooter in my school."

Novell ran to her car and drove to the school, talking to her dead father along the way. Not again, she told herself.

"Nothing has changed since 1949," she said in the interview.

When Charles Cohen was stuffed into the closet, he just waited, silently, nearly suffocating.

"I lay in the closet until I didn't hear any more shooting," Cohen told police after the shooting, according to an Inquirer report at the time. "When I tried to open the door, I couldn't. I started to suffocate. I pushed and kicked until I forced the door open. Then I ran downstairs and out the side. The police were there and they put me in their car."

Novell, a graduate of Cherry Hill High School West, said her father didn't talk about the shooting too often, although he did revisit the Camden neighborhood for a television report in 2000. He rarely shared that day with his grandchildren.

"My grandpa heard everything, and after that he lived with his cousin until he went to military school, I believe, " Carly Novell told HuffPost. "He never really talked about what happened, and I didn't find out until after he died. But family was so incredibly important to him because of what happened. He wasn't as lucky as me."

Carly's brother Alex Novell, 21, who lives in New York, said he discussed Unruh with his grandfather just once, during a car ride shortly before he died.

"When he told it to me, he said his parents were killed by someone who was deranged," he said Friday. "Since he didn't have parents and moved around a lot, it was very important that he have a family of his own."

Also a Parkland graduate, Alex Novell said he recognized Cruz on the news from seeing him in a store in Florida. Cruz, he said, followed his sister on Instagram. When she texted him from school Wednesday, Alex believed that his sister was being protected by their grandfather.

"The first thing I thought of was my grandfather," he said.

Cohen, according to an Inquirer report from 1949, was sedated because of his "overwrought condition" and handed over to a cousin. Another daughter, Robin Cogan, 56, of Cherry Hill, said her father visited his parents' graves at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose, Bucks County, but rarely discussed the tragedy.

"He was a great guy, people loved him, the life of the party. He told really bad jokes," Cogan, a nurse in Camden, said Friday. "If you dug a little deeper, though, he was sad. He lived his life. He felt he had to give meaning."

Howard Unruh lived the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital in Trenton. Like Cohen, he died in 2009.

"I'd have killed a thousand if I had enough bullets," Unruh allegedly told police.

For many years, Charles Cohen and his family attended hearings at which Unruh unsuccessfully lobbied to be transferred from a maximum security hospital.

"You get through it, but you never get over it," Charles Cohen told the Inquirer in 2009. "I think about my parents every day."

Merri Cohen Novell and Cogan said every shooting in the nation, large or small, took a toll on their father. He never purchased a gun.

"He really felt that was one of the biggest problems," Cogan said. "It's been 69 years of the same thing, over and over again."

When Merri Novell, 49, made it to the school Wednesday, she stood with a mother who couldn't connect with her daughter. Novell was going to attend that girl's funeral service Friday.

"It could have easily been my daughter," she said. "It shouldn't be anyone's daughter. It needs to stop."

Novell said more children will scramble for closets if elected officials don't enact gun control and pay greater attention to mental health care. Some, like her dad and daughter, will make it. Many won't.

"It's the same scenario as Camden. Everyone was a little scared of him. He didn't seem right. He was mentally ill, " Novell said of Unruh.

"He wasn't getting the mental care he needed. The same thing is going to happen again if we don't fix the mental health crisis or the gun crisis. We shouldn't have guns in civilized society."