PARKLAND, Fla. – Two years after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, communities across South Florida have come together to honor the victims.
Seventeen people were killed when a gunman opened fire on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
Loved ones and community members honored their memories Friday with a day of service.
Broward County Public Schools dismissed students early. Instead of classes, many chose to participate in a day of service honoring the lives of Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang.
“It’s tough for many people here today and it’s tough knowing what happened here, but I’m just going to do my best, like many others, to try to bring the community together today,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School freshman Leo Bucco told Local 10 News.
As students arrived, Jay Hamm was waiting with his two dogs, Chibby Choo and K-Poppy. The hard-working dogs are part of the Paws for Compassion pet therapy team.
“It’s putting that little flutter in your heart that says, ‘Man, I feel better,’” Hamm said. “You know, and there’s no medicine comparable to it. You know, it’s just a beautiful type of medicine.”
Meanwhile, students at nearby Tradewinds Elementary School in Coconut Creek were spreading messages of love and support. The banners on which the messages were displayed will be sent to hospitals, rehabilitation centers and assisted-care facilities.
“We look forward to contributing all of our words of kindness to all different areas of our community,” principal Michael Breslaw said.
After attending a first responders breakfast hosted by students, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony spoke to reporters.
“It was difficult to come in and see all these young folks giving us applause and saying thank you for our services, understanding that, not too long ago, we came up short,” Tony said.
Students like Liam Kiernan, who was on campus during the shooting two years ago, said the memory is still fresh.
“I actually was outside when he started shooing and I ran back inside, so I stood in that exact same spot and just took it in and it was just this wave of, like, the most emotional feeling I’ve felt in a while,” the senior said while wearing an #MSDStrong shirt and school hat.
Broward County Public Schools has invested millions of dollars in technology and security upgrades since 2018 in response to the tragedy.
“Everything that we can put into MSD we have been doing to make sure that we can meet the needs of everyone on this campus and in this community,” Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
The city of Parkland organized a service project at Pine Trails Park. There was a community food-packing event with Food for the Poor and art on display to commemorate the victims, along with a spiritual ceremony at the amphitheater.
But at least one resident said she doesn’t think it’s enough.
"I really do feel that at the two-year mark we don’t have a proper memorial for these incredible souls that we all lost,” Laura Waitze Zuckerman said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a proclamation directing all state of Florida flags to be flown at half-staff.
A district-wide moment of silence was held at 10:17 a.m.