One Year Later: Sorrow Turns to Activism

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One Year Later: Sorrow Turns to Activism

Two attendees standing by the stage watching a very sentimental video.

Two attendees standing by the stage watching a very sentimental video.

Two attendees standing by the stage watching a very sentimental video.

Two attendees standing by the stage watching a very sentimental video.

Mandee Martinez, Editor

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Valentine’s Day. A day reserved for flowers, cards, and teddy bears. But, in South Florida, the teddy bears, cards, and flowers now have new homes – on commemorative vigils.

Nowhere was it more evident than this past Valentine’s Day during a commemorative gathering at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

February 14, 2019, was different this year, it was no longer a time of love but a time of reminiscing. Seventeen lives were lost one year ago on February 14, 2018. To celebrate those lives, the city of Parkland and Cooper City teamed together to commemorate and celebrate those lost.  Many got the opportunity to attend those events and to recognize the changes in student’s daily life and safety in schools.

Students throughout South Florida, many of the organizations, and churches were also involved. This event was not something you’d expect, it was different, it was almost uplifting. Those who attended were there to fight for change and to make the people who attended feel safe and at home. Throughout the week, there were many different events such as “A Day of Honor in Service and Love” that occurred from 12:30-4:30 pm, that involved many booths and stands throughout the whole field. As well as a vigil that occurred 5:30 pm. There were also many more events.

At those events, you got to personally learn about the students who attended and how they were affected. Learning their stories about how they have grown and adapted was powerful and motivating. The students did not let this stop them or fill fear into their hearts. In fact, this tragedy lead to students to participate in many rallies as well as voice their opinions on numerous political issues.

One was able to ask some students how they are feeling, how their daily lives were affected, how a tragedy like this could be prevented, and their opinions on gun restrictions. For example, Christle Vidor, an 18-year-old who attends Stoneman Douglas High was in school the day during Nikolas Cruz’s heinous acts of violence and hate. Christle explained that she came to this event to find peace and not indulge in the sadness of this tragedy. Also, she personally came to remember some of her dear friends lives that were lost. Christle knew Helena Ramsey and described her as a close friend because they were seated next to each other in English.  She also knew Carmen Schentrup, Vidor stated that Carmen was “Probably one of the smartest people I know.” Carmen used to tutor Christle in Chemistry and they got to know each other well. She also knew Peter Wang who was in Vidor’s culinary class

Vidor was impacted by this not only because she was in school when this happened but because she lost some people very close to her. When asked about how this has affected her personally she responded with “I do yoga classes which are very relaxing and calming because I get anxious at times and I know that many people have it worse than me.”  She also attends a church regularly and prays and she indicated that has helped as well. “Yoga helps me, I pray. I think that finding spirituality has helped me the most”.

Although there were countless student-ran booths and churches, the Broward County school district was there providing infographics of school safety, as well as what to do in a “Code red.” One of the churches that had a booth set up was Parkridge Church of Coral Springs. Jacqueline Jimenez, a leader at the church, organized scrapbooks of all the cards the victims received and had help from a local senior citizen center. There are two big scrapbooks with cards from all over the world. Many of these cards were sentimental and showed support. When asked why Jimenez created these scrapbooks she specified, “My ideas are God inspired.”  Parkridge Church helped make the students feel more comfortable and gave their school a prettier face. Parkridge was fixing the landscape and painting while they found over thousands of letters in crates from all over the world, places like Russia, Austria, and countless more. The main goal was to show support and love so Jacqueline partnered with a nursing home in Coral Springs called “Park Summit” to put these letters together.

More surprisingly, the number of students that have very strong and vocal opinions on what should be changed is outstanding. Because of these opinions, numerous students attended the March for Our Lives campaign this past March. Christle Vidor described it as “A good experience and good to unite, and a good way to speak out for other communities where shootings are the daily for them.” Various students like herself feel the same way. Students and parents strongly feel that guns should not be easily obtained.

Ashley Ferrer a 16-year-old sophomore who attends MSD high school, knew 3 of the victims personally, Alyssa Alhadeff, Jaime Guttenberg, and Cara Loughran. Ferrer attended the event to “Commemorate the 17 and for them”. Ashley stated that she has a hard time concentrating in school and feels that there are “More good days and bad days”. Ferrer was vocal with her opinion and stated that there should be stricter and stronger gun laws and more awareness of mental health. Students like Ferrer believe schools should not have to make stricter safety rules around campus and that staff should focus on the mental health of students. She affirmed, “Staff should check on students who are having behavioral issues and students should have more access to wellness centers and stuff like that.”

The Clergy Coalition were here to state some encouraging words. Henry Hoagan exclaims that “Grief is the price we pay for love “, Steven Smith with a Latter-Day Saints church stated “Faith will concur fear”, and the Islamic Foundation of South Florida stated, “Tears are nothing but a sign of strength”.

The quote that struck the crowd was, “We are no longer peaceful Parkland but pain filled Parkland, purposeful Parkland and powerful Parkland.”

About the Writer
Mandee Martinez, Contributor

Mandee Martinez is a wild and full of energy soul who always has a smile on her face and will always be there to help.

Mandee Martinez joined South...

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One Year Later: Sorrow Turns to Activism