It was a year ago Thursday that a troubled teenage gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and opened fire. When the shooting stopped, 17 people were dead, 14 students and three faculty members.
It was February 14, 2018. Valentine’s Day.
“On this solemn day, our state mourns the lives of the seventeen souls lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one year ago,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a written statement released Thursday morning. “Since that tragic day, the Parkland community has demonstrated tremendous courage and resiliency, reminding us just how strong and united Floridians can be in the face of such devastating loss.”
Remembrances will be held across Florida this Valentine’s Day to honor the victims of the mass shooting, as well as to show support for the survivors of the massacre.
In Parkland itself, what is being described as a “low-key” observance will be held that will include vigils and moments of silence, as well as an interfaith service. Following a half day at school, students from Stoneman Douglas High School will gather at the city’s largest park to remember those who lost their lives and those whose lives have been forever changed by the tragedy.
“We wanted to keep it what it’s supposed to be about and remember why we’re here,” said Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky. “We’re here because 17 people’s lives were taken, we’re here because 17 other people were injured and a school’s students, teachers and staff were traumatised.’’
Family and friends of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, another of the victims of last year’s rampage will spend part of the day cleaning the fhe stretch of the beach that was Alyssa’s favorite.
The first anniversary of the Parkland shooting is also being remembered at the state Capitol in Tallahassee. The Florida Historic Capitol Museum in Tallahassee is being lit by orange lights this week. Orange has come to be known as the color associated with gun violence awareness.
Fred Guttenberg’s 14-year-old daughter, Jaime was killed in the Parkland shootings. He started Orange Ribbons for Jaime to support programs that were important to his daughter, as well as to promote gun safety reform.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried proposed a resolution calling for lighting the Capitol orange to honor the 17 victims in the Parkland shooting during a meeting of the governor and the Florida Cabinet on Jan. 29. The resolution was adopted unanimously.
“I’m grateful and appreciative for Commissioner Fried’s continued advocacy and support of the Parkland victims and families — and of all families who have suffered due to gun violence,” said Guttenberg. “This symbol of honor and respect is also a symbol of hope for the future, as we continue the important work of taking on America’s gun violence crisis and making our communities safer.”
The old state Capitol building will remain lit in orange through Feb. 17.
“As we approach a difficult day for our state, let this week of orange serve as a token of hope, and a pledge that the seventeen Parkland victims will not be forgotten,” said Fried. “Let us pledge that no victim of gun violence will be forgotten. And let us work together to address the threat of gun violence in our communities.”
Inside the state Capitol, a Senate committee this week looked for ways to improve the school safety law that the Legislature enacted last year in the weeks following the school shootings. Among the provisions in the 2018 law was more money for mental health programs, an increase in the legal age to buy a firearm to 21 and the creation of a “guardian program” that allows certain school staff to undergo extensive training and be permitted to carry concealed weapons on school campuses as a deterrent against future school attacks.
In January, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission that was created by last year’s school safety law recommended the guardian program be expanded to include the training and arming of teachers, which was a major point of contention a year ago.
The Legislature had considered including teachers in the guardian program but backed off the idea when then-Gov. Rick Scott said he would not support the arming of teachers,
But, Florida’s new governor has a different view of the idea.
“If you’re somebody who’s working at a school and you’re somebody who’s trained and who has the ability to do it then you shouldn’t be precluded from carrying a firearm that could potentially deter people,” DeSantis recently said.
Democrats continue to oppose the idea of including teachers in the program.
“Our teachers should be armed with higher wages, not guns,” said Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa posted on Twitter after the Senate Education Committee voted Tuesday to include teachers in the program. “I can not support legislation that puts more weapons in our schools.”
But on the eve of Thursday’s first anniversary of the Parkland shootings, the focus of the governor, state lawmakers and the entire state are on the lives lost on Valentine’s Day a year ago.
“We will never forget the heroes who risked and sacrificed their lives to protect others, nor the actions taken that day by first responders. Casey and I continue to keep the families and loved ones of the innocents who were lost in our prayers as we honor their memory today in a moment of silence,” DeSantis added in his statement Thursday morning.
Late Wednesday, DeSantis issued a proclamation ordering state flags be flown “at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations and grounds throughout the State of Florida. The flags shall be lowered from sunrise until sunset on Thursday, February 14, 2019.”
DeSantis said he was issuing the order, ”In honor and remembrance of the victims of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018,”