February 14, 2018, my mom called. “Turn on the Florida news,” she said. I was in my SMU dorm when I learned there was an active shooter on the campus of the Parkland, Florida high school I graduated from nine months prior, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD). I began texting all my friends still attending MSD and old teachers to make sure they were safe. Some were never able to respond.
It’s been a year since Nicholas Cruz killed 17 people at MSD. This anniversary is commemorating not only the lives lost that day, but also the bravery and determination of Parkland’s youth who started the chant “Never Again.” This terrible day taught America how much strength the community can have when everyone comes together.
Parkland students rose up to start a movement that’s impacting people and politics all over the world; but they’re starting to question when, or if, they’ll see real changes. Chris Grady, a 2018-graduate of Douglas and co-founder of the March for Our Lives organization, has acknowledged the lack of change in our country since that day.
“[It’s] just a year since 17 innocent people were murdered needlessly and things still haven’t changed,” Grady said.
Members of March for Our Lives are working together to help end the school shootings we hear in the news far too frequently.
Last year, just days after the shooting, classes resumed at MSD, and the nation seemed to slowly forget. Melody Herzfeld, the theater teacher at MSD for 16 years, received the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award and did everything she could to support the founders of March for Our Lives – her students – my friends.
“[My students] themselves founded and run [March for Our Lives]. I’m proud of them rising up and taking action for this important cause to change the way the world is so that kids can be safe at school,” Herzfeld said.
Kyle Jeter, a teacher at MSD since 1994, said this school year started off more positively although everyone had to adjust to a “new normal.”
“We’re all going to be forced to relive the agony … but we need to remember the 17 victims and their families … We also need to remind schools to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios and train accordingly,” Jeter said. “[The anniversary] symbolizes the good in people – the people who have donated their time and effort in supporting our school. Unfortunately, there’ll always be a ‘before’ and ‘after’ at Douglas. I just hope that we, as a school and community, can continue adding to the legacy of positive things that have resulted from such a senseless act of violence.”
Jeter discussed how tragedies can truly happen anywhere. This got me thinking about my safety at SMU. I’m sad and mad all over again but am proud to be an MSD Eagle. “We’re reminded that we are all here and in good health,” sophomore Lauren Lehner said. “We should remember that we each have a voice to use to help others and talk about what happened to heal and make sure incidents like this don’t continue to happen.”
Parkland will never be the same and those friends will never text back; but February 14, 2019 is a way to acknowledge SMU’s strength as a community and continue to make our voices heard as the nation learns and forges ahead in the effort to make schools safe again.