Sea of candles fills park during Parkland school shooting vigil

Thousands mourn victims of massacre during sunset vigil at Pines Trail Park

PARKLAND, Fla. – Thousands attended a candlelight vigil Thursday night to honor the memory of the 17 victims killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Some of the mourners traveled far to be at the sunset vigil. Anthony Rizzo, a Chicago Cubs star and an alumnus of the school, was in tears. 

"I played on those fields. I went to those classes," Rizzo said during a speech. "I studied in those classrooms. The same school we saw on videos yesterday for all the wrong reasons."

The school in Parkland has about 3,000 students. Authorities estimated about 8,000 people showed up to Pine Trails Park and surrounded the amphitheater decorated with 17 glowing statues of angels.  

Principal Ty Thompson said he received calls from all over the world, including one from the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He said the experience with the 2012 shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead was helpful. 

"It's not something that's in the playbook, so I got some good advice from him, and I am confident that we are going to move forward and get past this," Thompson said. 

Some of the mourners brought flowers, balloons, teddy bears and candles. Some also brought signs. As the names of the students and teachers who died were read, mourners sobbed. A crowd later interrupted the ceremony, and spontaneously started to chant: "No more guns!" 

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch, both Democrats, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie delivered speeches about the need for tighter gun control. 

Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mourn together during a candlelight vigil at Pines Trail Park.

"If you want to keep the gun laws as they are now, you will not get re-elected in Broward County," Israel said.

The most moving speeches were from grieving parents. Fred Guttenberg said he didn't remember if he had told his daughter Jaime that he loved her before she went to school. He sent her to school, where she was supposed to be safe, he said. 

"Don't tell me there is no such thing as gun violence," Guttenberg said. "My girl, my 14-year-old baby, and for those of you who knew my Jaime, she was the life of the party. She was the energy in the room. She made people laugh and, yes, sometimes she made us cry. But she was always known. She always made her presence known."

About the Authors:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.