Students finish first day back at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Classes resume at Parkland school 2 weeks after mass shooting killed 17

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Ian Margol - Reporter, Erica Rakow - Reporter, Samantha Bryant - Reporter, Terrell Forney - Reporter

PARKLAND, Fla. - Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday as classes resumed two weeks after a mass shooting there killed 17 people.

Classes resumed on a modified schedule for the remainder of the week. School will be in session from 7:40 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. through Friday.

Students began their school day in fourth period -- the same period they were in on the day of the Feb. 14 shooting.

"I'm nervous, but I'm, like, happy to see everybody that was in my class and my teacher and know that we all made it safe," student Macey Geller said.

As students showed up, they passed their old elementary and middle school teachers who held signs of encouragement for them.

A 17-second moment of silence started the day to honor the victims. Flowers draped the desks of the students killed in the shooting. 

"It was overwhelming in terms of seeing, like, other people crying -- everyone was crying," junior Brandon Dasent said. "There were counselors all over our classrooms (and) our teachers were handing out cookies to us." 

Students said teachers helped them as they get through the healing process.

"One of my teachers, Ms. Briggs, she had this entire layout of couches and pillows for everyone so they can relax, and she handed out these crystals and she said, 'This one is supposed to mend the heart and this one is supposed to keep your sorrow away from you,'" senior Makenzie Ruffolo said.  

The freshman building where the shooting occurred will remain closed. Broward County Commissioner and former Parkland Mayor Michael Udine, whose daughter and niece attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said Tuesday he hopes federal legislators will help demolish the building so that no student will ever have to step foot inside again.

Some students told Local 10 News that they're not ready to return yet. Others said they don't ever want to go back.

"I don't think anyone is physically prepared or mentally prepared to actually walk into the gates and just remember everything that was happening," sophomore Nicole Velasquez said.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie welcomed students back with a message on Twitter.

Runcie said students will receive support to "work through the healing process, which is going to be a long and difficult one."

Students were expected to have a curriculum-free day as they adjust to being back on campus. Principal Ty Thompson said backpacks wouldn't be needed.

A caravan of law-enforcement vehicles from multiple agencies left from the Coral Springs Police Department to welcome the students back.

"We just want to be there to show them that we're here for them and support them," Hollywood police Sgt. Paul Scheel said.

Representatives from the local police union were on hand to give flowers to students as they arrived on campus.

"We just came out today to try to comfort the kids in any way that we knew we could," Broward County Police Benevolent Association vice president Rod Skirvin said.

Skirvin said Field of Flowers donated 1,000 flowers to the cause.

Steve Porter was one of about a half-dozen alumni who showed up.

"Once an Eagle, always an Eagle," the 1999 graduate said, referencing his alma mater's school mascot.

Having once walked those halls, Porter said he couldn't imagine what the current students might be feeling.

"To have a shooting, I never thought it would happen at our school," Porter said.

Abraham Cardenas, a senior at Florida International University, stood across the street from the school, holding a sign that read, "MSD Strong." Cardenas said he was inspired by the students' resilience.

"Their spirit is very strong, and it gives me hope," he said.

Fourteen students and three teachers lost their lives after Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to open fire at his former school.

"It was hard, but I knew they were still there with us on our first day," sophomore Liam Kiernan said. "When I walked in, I knew they were standing right next to me the entire time."

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