Parkland Community Remembers Victims Of Deadly High School Shooting A Year Later
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Today marks one year since a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Fla. President Trump took note of the anniversary with a tweet. He wrote, Melania and I join all Americans in praying for the continued healing of those in the Parkland community and all communities where lives have been lost to gun violence. Hours later, the president rewrote the tweet, changing gun violence to school violence.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
For students in Parkland, attendance today was optional, and many stayed home. For those who went to school, it was a day of service. Service activities and other commemorations took place throughout the day in Parkland and nearby communities. NPR's Greg Allen joins us from Parkland. Hi there, Greg.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: Can you describe the day you've seen so far?
ALLEN: Yes. It's kind of - it's definitely a somber day here, but it's been surprising me in some ways that the mood is one not really of just, you know, sadness but also this - more of a kind of a sense of community, people coming together, people wanting to be out to be with others to kind of say, you know, we're here, and we want to make a statement about it.
The school district and communities of Parkland and nearby Coral Springs, where many of the students who go to Marjory Stoneman Douglas live - they've been planning this day for months. There was a moment of silence this morning at schools in Broward County and at many other schools throughout the state. Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas this morning. There was a breakfast that students and staff had with first responders. Afterwards, Runcie spoke to reporters.
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ROBERT RUNCIE: Although we mourn from the lives that we lost through a horrific act of hate and anger, I believe that we must also celebrate the possibilities of what can be through love and support.
ALLEN: You know, Audie, and of course Superintendent Runcie has been heavily criticized here in Broward County. Many Parkland parents have been calling for his ouster. You know, so he's had some really tough times around this issue.
CORNISH: Right. I mean, Florida's governor said he wanted a grand jury to look at how Broward and other school districts have handled school security. So what would that mean for the school district?
ALLEN: Well, after basically withholding comment yesterday on that, saying he's too busy to talk about this, today Runcie changed his tune a bit on this grand jury idea. He said he welcomed it, said he thought it would help the school district get answers also to some of the questions they have. And he's confident. He said that Broward is on its way to being the safer school district in America, so he's welcoming it.
CORNISH: I want to get back to Parkland and the students. How are they commemorating the 17 lives lost?
ALLEN: Well, a lot of activities are focused around a park that's not far from the school. This was a park that became kind of a focus of activity the day of the shooting, of course, and in the months since after that when counseling was held here. But a very moving memorial has been set up here for the 17 students and adults killed. For each individual, there's this collage of photos and messages of encouragement, love that were sent in in the months after this tragedy from people from around the world.
But a main focus here has really been on this idea of a day of service. Inside the community center here, there's been hundreds of people coming all day long, many of them wearing those maroon MSD Strong T-shirts. They're working in shifts throughout the day packing food. And it's for a group that's sending these packages of food to hungry people around the world. One of the people I talked to is Mandy Sheridan. She was there with her 9-year-old daughter. Here's what she said.
MANDY SHERIDAN: As a Parkland resident, we are so fortunate to live in such an amazing community. And we all came together so much last year on this horrible day that we wanted to be thankful that we survived and showed the world that we are still Parkland strong.
ALLEN: And, you know, there've been activities going on all day here. There's been yoga, art activities, a drumming circle. There was an interface ceremony. And not far away from here in nearby Coral Springs, there's some other activities happening, including - there's this temple - a wooden temple that was recently built by an artist and some volunteers. Many have been visiting that, including Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis. He was there today. It's built to house remembrances of those who were killed. It's going to be open for three months, and then it's going to be set ablaze in a ceremonial fire.
CORNISH: In the meantime, of course the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas led to a national movement - right? - and a national discussion about gun violence. Do you get the sense that that continues after this first anniversary?
ALLEN: I do. I think people here are - feel really energized by this - by the - some of the activities going on here today. Many of those, including those who were part of the March For Our Lives student movement, are pledging to continue their work. At the commemoration here today, activists were gathering signatures for a referendum that some people are circulating for a statewide ban on semiautomatic rifles like the one used in Parkland. But, you know, Florida lawmakers are taking other tact. They're kind of considering a bill that would allow teachers - more teachers to carry guns in the classroom. So there's a real division here in Florida about what to do to make schools safer.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Greg Allen in Parkland, Fla. Greg, thanks.
ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.