Families, friends, classmates remember victims of Parkland school shooting

Interfaith service, day of service projects planned to commemorate anniversary

By Associated Press, Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

PARKLAND, Fla. - Hundreds of thousands of students and adults across Florida and beyond observed a moment of silence Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead.

The massacre on Feb. 14, 2018, inflamed the national debate over guns, turned young people into political activists and gave rise to some of the biggest youth demonstrations since the Vietnam era.

A moment of silence was observed at 10:17 a.m., though the shooting actually began around 2:20 p.m. School officials picked a different time because Stoneman Douglas students were being dismissed early to avoid being on campus at the hour of the attack. The decision to hold it at 10:17 was made in honor of the 17 killed.

Many Stoneman Douglas students arrived wearing the burgundy #MSDStrong T-shirts that have become an emblem of the tragedy. Outside, clear plastic figurines of angels were erected for each of the 14 students and three staff members killed.

Reporters were not allowed inside the school, but students were working on service projects, and grief counselors and therapy dogs were made available. Students could also receive massages and pedicures. An interfaith service was scheduled for later in the day at a nearby park.

"The impact of this horrific event has been monumental," Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.

In the afternoon, Broward Sheriff's Office Sheriff Gregory Tony and members of his staff arrived at the school memorial to offer a prayer.

Victims' families who have spoken publicly said they would spend the day quietly, visiting their loved ones' graves or participating in low-key events like a community walk.

"We don't need (the anniversary) to remind us what happened. We live with it every day," said businessman Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the attack. 

The massacre also led some students to form the group March for Our Lives, which holds rallies nationwide calling for tougher gun regulations and toured the country registering young adults to vote.

"I believe we must also celebrate the possibilities of what can be through love and support," Runcie said.

Mickey Pope, the district's chief of student-support services, said the staff worked with mental health counselors, community groups, the victims' families and others for four months to devise a plan they believe will honor those killed and allow students and staff to mourn.

Many Stoneman Douglas students skipped school. For some it's too emotional; others don't want to be in the spotlight.

Runcie said attendance was low Thursday, as expected. 

A state commission tasked with investigating the shooting was critical of the school district's safety protocols, including that the gates to campus weren't locked at the time of the shooting.

DeSantis recently called for a statewide grand jury to look at whether Florida's 67 school districts are following school safety laws enacted in the wake of the massacre. Runcie said he welcomes the investigation and believes the school district could become the safest in the state.

Runcie suggested that his district has been unfairly targeted by the actions of one disgruntled former student.

"This has been a really difficult year made even more difficult by the amount of misinformation that continues to proliferate in all sorts of media," Runcie said.

Linda Schulman, whose son Scott Beigel, a teacher at the school, was killed trying to save the lives of students, said she finds comfort knowing that her son won't be forgotten.

"The legacy of my son and the others will live on forever," she said.

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