On February 14, Walpole High School students exchanged carnations and shared heartfelt messages to friends as they do every Valentine’s Day. In Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the holiday was very different. Towards the end of the school day, a former student entered the freshman building and took the lives of seventeen students and faculty. In the wake of the tragedy, the Douglas Eagles have unified as a community in mourning and begun a search for change.
Over February break, I visited family in Boynton Beach, Florida, only 20 minutes away from Parkland. Since the shooting happened days before my family and I left, we felt compelled to pay our respects. Ten days after the tragedy my mother, younger brother, grandmother and I drove to Parkland. It was impossible to miss the 17 memorials that laid upon the dry grass in front of the school, as they were covered in such brightly colored flowers, candles and balloons. Out of the 17 memorials, 12 were constructed with wooden crosses and the other 5 were stars of David.
Since they have gone back to class, the community is newly close-knit. Max Fink said, “Our school has been transformed into a much stronger community of people that I would’ve never imagined would’ve happened before. I’ve seen people that I know I never would’ve talked to and they’ve personally asked how I was doing and tried to be friendly with me, and it’s little things like that that have been spreading across this community of ours which we are very fortunate to be a part of.”
Even though the students and staff seemed to become more unified as a community, it was difficult for students and staff to keep their minds off the tragedy. “Heading back to school was a little comforting knowing that I can see everyone again but sad knowing that I won't see those who are no longer there,” Alex Fink said. "[Going back to school] was eerie and slightly concerning to me because of all of the safety precautions being implemented. I didn’t like the large amount of police and news outlets, because it just felt like we were always being watched, and even though I appreciate the help and assistance of the hundreds of thousands involved, at some point I would’ve liked a break" Max Fink said.
"[school] was eerie and slightly concerning to me because of all of the safety precautions being implemented... it just felt like we were always being watched, and even though I appreciate the help and assistance of the hundreds of thousands involved, at some point I would’ve liked a break." -Max Fink
Although the past month has been overwhelming for the Parkland students, they are eternally grateful for the nationwide support they have received and together the students are seeking a peaceful change. “We as a nation need to unite and stop fighting with one another,” said Alex Fink.
March 14th was proclaimed National Walkout day prompting thousands of American schools to walk out to show solidarity, including Walpole one day later on account of snow. I stood outside proudly to show support along with the rest of the large crowd. Some students even sported orange hats (because orange is the national walkout color) that said “#enough.”
“[Seeing the walkouts] makes me feel like people really do care about not only us as a school and a community, but also that people care about the actual cause. It’s reassuring knowing that people want a change with what’s going on in our country, and I sincerely respect that.” said Max Fink.
Middle and high school students are not the only ones so passionate about the “Never Again” movement. Some may say that younger children should be able to live blissfully unaware of such issues, but the American youth are standing tall against gun violence. When I visited Parkland, a large portion of the signs on the fence were messy drawings by children saying they were sorry for Douglas’ loss and I saw many children placing down flowers in front of the memorials.