Parkland is a small town. For those that reside here, it is a piece of utopia. A place of innocence and tranquility.
Tragically, on February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, the entire city of Parkland along with its surrounding communities were hit with a tragedy of unspeakable proportions. A lone gunman marched into the halls of Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire with his AR-15 on unsuspecting students and teachers killing 17 innocent souls. Suddenly, our place of utopia turned into one of horror, panic, grief and mourning…
When our staff went to the Parkland Amphitheater, where an around the clock vigil site has been established, we didn’t know what to expect. We’d all seen the events unfold on the news. Some of us were at the school on the day of the shooting. We all live close by. Yet nothing can prepare us emotionally for the scene we were about to experience. There was an overwhelming sadness and despair that enveloped the air. Seeing students coming by the dozens, many of whom were in the same classrooms where their classmates were murdered, was utterly disturbing. Letters, stuffed animals, flowers, Stars of David, wooden crosses and other religious artifacts lined the stage at the Amphitheater. We could hear faintly the voices of the students retelling some of the events of that day. Others were mourning over the loss of a friend, or several…so senselessly taken. A question that kept resonating in our minds was, WHY? Why were these innocent lives so violently taken from us? Why were these pure souls made to suffer and pay the ultimate price while others were spared? Why was nothing being done when numerous complaints about the gunman and his brother were reported to the authorities weeks earlier? Why was a mental health stricken young individual, with a history of exhibiting violent behaviors, allowed to purchase an automatic weapon with the killing capacity of an AR-15? No one has the answers. There was none that would ease our sorrow.
When unspeakable tragedy strikes a person, a family or a town, we could only focus upon the positives. For only light can dispel a place of extreme darkness. There were plenty of positives from our observance on the Amphitheater visit. We watched students helping one another cope with the tragedy, while others demanded changes from policy makers to school officials. Few have seen the outpouring of passion and compassion comparable to those of the students of Stoneman Douglas. We’ve heard their cries, as we’ve cried with them. We’ve watched their matches, as we’ve stood alongside with them. We’ve witnessed their action, as we couldn’t be more proud of them. Indeed light has been dispatched following the aftermath of 2/14/18.
In the end, Parkland is still a small town. It is still a piece of utopia. For it is OUR town, and we will not stand by and allow the 17 sacred souls to die in vain. #MSDSTRONG #PARKLANDSTRONG #STONEMANDOUGLAS #WELOVEPARKLAND