Anthony Borges, rear, who was shot during the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, hugs Marianne Sheehan after a news conference with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. DeSantis ordered a statewide grand jury investigation on school safety. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Year after Parkland school shooting massacre, 17 victims remembered

14 students and three staff were killed

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre a year ago renewed the national debate on guns and school safety, turned some victims’ parents and surviving students into political activists and at least temporarily ended the local sheriff’s career.

But Thursday’s anniversary will primarily be about remembering the 14 students and three staff members who died in the third high-profile mass shooting in Florida since 2016. An interfaith service will be held at a Parkland park, near the school, to remember the victims.

Students also will perform service projects and observe a moment of silence and a non-denominational, temporary temple will open in neighbouring Coral Springs for people to pay their respects. The structure will later be burned in a purification ceremony. Security throughout the community and at schools will be high.

“We don’t need (the anniversary) to remind us what happened. We live with it every day,” said businessman Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the attack. He met with President Donald Trump at the White House after the shooting and became an adviser to Gov. Ron DeSantis and his predecessor, Rick Scott. Other fathers like Fred Guttenberg and Manuel Oliver have become active in Democratic politics.

And victims’ relatives from both sides helped lead the successful push to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. DeSantis suspended the Democratic sheriff last month, citing incompetence in his handling of the shooting. Israel is fighting the suspension in the state Senate and says he will try to win back the office in next year’s election.

The massacre also led some Stoneman Douglas students to form the group “March for Our Lives,” which holds rallies nationwide calling for tougher gun regulations and toured the country registering young adults to vote.

“It was the kids themselves that made Parkland an unusual shooting,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law and gun rights expert. Just in Florida, 49 people died in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and five died at Fort Lauderdale’s airport in 2017. There have been other notable mass shootings across the country during that period — at a Las Vegas concert, a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Texas high school. But none resonated politically like Stoneman Douglas.

“What we haven’t seen is a mobilization of the students in quite the same way,” Winkler said.

But Thursday will be mostly a day to push aside politics. Victims’ families who have spoken publicly say they will spend the day quietly, visiting their loved one’s grave or participating in low-key events like a community walk.

“We are going to simply reflect and remember,” said Tony Montalto, president of the victims’ families’ organization, Stand With Parkland. “That is the best thing.” Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting.

At Stoneman Douglas, students will mark the tragedy by working on service projects. They also can receive mental health counselling and visit therapy dogs. Volunteers will provide massages and manicures.

READ MORE: ‘I still weep’: Parkland survivors write book on shooting

READ MORE: ‘I can’t bring Alyssa back’: Grieving Parkland mom fights on

Mickey Pope, the district’s chief of student-support services, said the staff worked with mental health counsellors, community groups, the victims’ families and others for four months to devise a plan they believe will honour those killed and allow students and staff to mourn.

Still, many Stoneman Douglas students are skipping school. For some it’s too emotional; others don’t want to be in the spotlight.

Alexis Grogan, a junior, said she’ll spend the day picking up beach trash, dedicating her work to those who died.

“I survived something and I don’t want to waste what I call a second chance at life because those who have passed don’t get that,” she said. “We have to make a difference for them.”

In Coral Springs, San Francisco-area artist David Best will open “The Temple of Time,” which at 1,600 square feet (150 square meters) represents the indefinite period it will take for the community to come to grips with the slayings. It’s an Asian design with a spire roof that has intricate designs cut into it.

Best rejected naming it “The Temple of Healing” because he said that is impossible for the victims and their families. Since 2000, he has built such temples worldwide, including in Northern Ireland for those killed in political strife and in Nepal for the 2015 earthquake victims. Like those structures, the Stoneman Douglas temple will be burned along with whatever mementos, writings and art that mourners leave behind. That ceremony will happen in May.

Most construction materials and other expenses are being paid by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s public arts foundation, but neither Best nor his workers are paid.

“When the smoke goes up and the flames go up, it will have a great meaning,” said volunteer Tony Bianco, an Army veteran and artist from Coral Gables,

___

Associated Press Writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale and Lisa Marie Pane in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

___

Terry Spencer, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Thieves steal computers and two beers during downtown Nanaimo restaurant break-in

Break-and-enter happened Sept. 3 at Zalathai Thai Restaurant on Victoria Crescent

Nanaimo Boat Show full of ideas about how to get out on the water

Show takes place Sept. 19-22 at Waterfront Suites and Marina on Stewart Avenue

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates try to chart a path to victory

Conservatives, NDP, Liberals set sights on votes needed to unseat Green incumbent

Andrew Scheer makes campaign stop in Parksville

Federal Conservative leader talks tax cuts, environment

Nanaimo remembers Terry Fox and runs for his cause

Terry Fox Run was held Sunday at Bowen Park

Nanaimo remembers Terry Fox and runs for his cause

Terry Fox Run was held Sunday at Bowen Park

Island campground on the chopping block as ALC deadline looms

Owners fighting to continue facility’s operation, with a huge outpouring of support

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Clippers earn five out of six points in BCHL action

Nanaimo splits with Alberni Valley, beats Chilliwack

UVic students killed in Bamfield bus crash were from Winnipeg, Iowa City

Authorities said the two victims were a man and a woman, both aged 18

Safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash on Vancouver Island

Huu-ay-aht First Nations wants a safe route between Bamfield and Port Alberni

Two dead, two in critical condition in highway crash near Campbell River

Highway 19 reopened Sunday night after it was closed in both directions

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Most Read