FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – For the third year in a row, Valentine’s Day is a difficult reminder to Parkland families of the tragedy that changed their lives forever.
During the day Sunday, exactly three years after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, doves were released in Coral Springs in honor of the 17 lives that were lost. Glow sticks lit the sky Sunday evening and prayers filled the hearts of those hurting.
These were just a few of several events held across South Florida to mark the somber anniversary.
A memorial grew outside of the high school, including a wreath that was placed there by Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony.
From flags lowered to half-staff outside of Parkland City Hall Sunday to visitors stopping by the solemn memorial in front of the school, the reflections are evident across town, marking one of the worst school shootings in United States history.
17 students and teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas were gunned down on Feb. 14, 2018, robbing families of their loved ones and forever scarring the minds of survivors.
At Esplanade Park in Fort Lauderdale, city leaders joined students from Florida Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern University for an event aimed at healing.
At one point, there was a moment of silence held at precisely 10:17 a.m. to honor the 17 lives lost at MSD. The remembrance included some families of the people killed.
“It’s a very difficult day, although every day has been difficult since my beautiful daughter Gina Rose Montalto was shot at her school,” said Tony Montalto. “Our family hasn’t been whole.”
In Coral Springs, healing was also the message at a wellness activity event organized by the Eagles Haven Team. Activities included meditation, rock painting, drum circles and more.
Each event was about moving forward with purpose and passion, while not forgetting the painful past.
“Today, we’re thankful that everyone has been gathering and taking time to remember the victims,” said Montalto.
Hundreds of people filled Pine Trails Park for a solemn remembrance where individual message boards were set up under the faces of each victim to allow mourners to pour out their thoughts.
“They were heroes. They should be remembered as such,” Vanessa Dos Santos, who was at the park for the remembrance, said.
Sunday’s events came after the school district held their own remembrance ceremonies on Friday.
Students at several schools across Broward County took a moment to stand in silence, as they remembered the victims.
Superintendent Robert Runcie also encouraged students to channel that emotion by taking part in a series of service projects, including a supply drive that was held for first responders at South Broward High School.
Meantime, several family members of those who were killed that day have embarked on their project.
Led by Manuel Oliver, who lost his son, Joaquin, they created a series of so-called shame cards, which they will send to congress.
Their goal is to call out lawmakers for not taking any further action on gun control.
It’s an issue that is very important to them, especially after the events that took place at Stoneman Douglas.