PARKLAND, Fla. - Retired Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade surprised students Sunday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's graduation ceremony.
Principal Ty Thompson, who recently announced his resignation amid criticism over his alleged lack of leadership before the 2018 Valentine's Day massacre at the school in Parkland, introduced the NBA legend as a surprise guest, leading to cheers in the crowd.
Wade has previously shown his support for the students, showing up on their first day back to classes after the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 17 people.
Wade began his speech by reminiscing about that day.
"I remember pulling up and seeing a few security guards outside. I remember being met by one of the staffers. I remember us walking to the school and I remember hearing absolutely nothing. I remember thinking to myself, 'I've never felt -- I've never heard this kind of silence before in my life,'" Wade said.
Wade said he was nervous to meet the students who survived that tragic day and wasn't sure how he would be received at the school.
While he grew up in the inner city of Chicago and experienced many things, Wade said he had never experienced something of this magnitude.
@DwyaneWade @DouglasHigh “my life is bigger than basketball...that’s why I wanted to come back to @DouglasHigh #msdstrong @BleacherReport pic.twitter.com/hTy68dZZx4 — Safeer Bhatti, Ph.D. (@drsafeerbhatti) June 2, 2019
As he entered the cafeteria to meet the survivors, he said he began to see smiles, grabbed a microphone and began speaking from the heart to the students.
"I realized that we had so much more in common than I even knew," Wade said. "I realized at that moment that we all had a responsibility -- a responsibility to be seen, to be heard, to stand up and stand tall for the ones who no longer had a voice."
Stoneman Douglas' graduation comes as the school prepares to welcome a new principal, Michelle Kefford, who was Florida's 2019 principal of the year.
Despite some of the criticism of Thompson, he received a standing ovation from the students at their graduation.
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