Parkland remembers victims of school shooting one year on

People visit a makeshift memorial in front of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in, Parkland, Florida, USA, Feb. 14, 2019. EPA-EFE/CRISTOBAL HERRERA

PARKLAND, USA.- The community of Parkland, Florida, commemorated on Thursday the school shooting one year ago that tragically ended the lives of 14 students and three employees of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

MSD students apparently preferred to privately honor the lives of their classmates and teachers or wanted to avoid the many journalists gathered at the school, judging by the low attendance at the so-called «Day of Service and Love.”

“Everybody is in a constant struggle… there is a lot of post-traumatic stress here. For some, it’s almost as if it occurred a yesterday. It’s raw,” Robert Runcie, Broward County Schools superintendent, told reporters.

Runcie said attendance at the high school was «significantly low,» adding that students who didn’t want to attend didn’t need to, and he also reduced the school day and switched classes to community activities.

The large altar with flowers and stuffed animals from a year ago is now a small garden with 17 colorful windmills as tribute to each of the victims.

One of the few students who showed up could not hold back tears as he reached the altar.

«It’s a hard day,» said a woman who hugged and consoled the young man.

The solitary, peaceful image of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where as in all schools in Broward and Miami-Dade counties a minute’s silence was held this morning, contrasted starkly with the heartbreaking scenes there a year ago

«It feels (like) dismay, a silence, it’s an emptiness,» Salvadoran Jorge Medina, a neighbor of the school, told EFE.

The tribute to the victims was moved around noon to the «Temple of Time,» an intricate recycled wood sculpture built by artist David Best and a group of volunteers to commemorate the first anniversary.

In the temple that has no god or religion and which in a few months will be burned like other Best works, visitors leave messages, photographs and objects to remember the victims.

The community also gathered adjacent to the school at Pine Trails Park, where on Feb. 15, 2018 Parkland students gathered to begin an aggressive campaign for gun control known as the March For Our Lives (MFOL).

That park was the scene this afternoon of a vigil that brought together some 1,500 people, led by local leaders and those of various faiths.

Shortly before, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey laid a wreath in the garden and prayed silently in the small memorial. Soon after, the pair visited the school.

Photojournalist Emilce McGovern told EFE that the young activists were not scheduled to make speeches or pronouncements like they have been doing for a year.

«It’s one more day of community, of recollection,» he said.

From the day after the tragedy, MFOL youths vigorously rejected the «thoughts and prayers» offered by politicians when shootings occurred and demanded gun control and real protection in classrooms.

On Wednesday, David Hogg, one of the most visible faces of the movement, said on Twitter that he would take a break from his social networks for three days and asked the public to remember «the people (that were) stolen from us that day; they are why we fight for peace.”

With a strong presence on social networks, these students and some of the parents of the victims have mobilized especially against the powerful National Rifle Association and the politicians who receive their donations.

In Florida, McGovern said, they achieved some success, including the raising of the minimum age to buy guns to 21 and the establishment of a three-day waiting period for most long-range gun purchases.

This week they also began a campaign aimed at banning through a constitutional amendment the sale of assault rifles such as the semi-automatic AR-15 used by Nikolas Cruz, the self-confessed Parkland shooter and former MSD student now awaiting trial in prison.

Governor DeSantis, who ordered the flags flown at half-mast on Thursday and praised the strength of the people of Parkland, asked the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday for a statewide grand jury review into school safety measures.

Runcie said they have worked significantly to improve security with more staff, cameras and lockout mechanisms.

The Salvadoran school neighbor, who has two daughters, was opposed to arming teachers as currently proposed in a bill being discussed in Florida’s Congress, and said greater gun control is needed.
However, he said that «everything depends on the heart of the one who has the gun.”

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