A memorial ceremony honoring the victims, a meal for first responders and the visitation of graves are among the ways the Parkland community will reflect Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students also are planning to give out meals to disadvantaged children and a temporary temple will be opened in neighboring Coral Springs where visitors can mourn. Many of the victims’ families, however, intend on remaining out of the public eye as the Florida community remembers the massacre that launched a national debate over gun control.
“We are going to simply reflect and remember,” said Tony Montalto, president of the victims’ families’ organization, Stand With Parkland. “That is the best thing.”
Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter, Gina, was killed in the shooting, along with 13 other students and three faculty members.
The Parkland school will be operating on a half-day schedule: Stoneman Douglas students will serve breakfast to first responders and will be dismissed nearly three hours before the time the shooting began, about 2:20 p.m. Many say they will avoid school altogether. Students at other Broward County schools will also work on service projects and observe a moment of silence.
The acts of kindness are being shared on Twitter with the hashtag #2getherinServiceandLove.
On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered across the state fly at half-staff, in memory of those who lost their lives on Feb. 14, 2018.
Since that day, Parkland families have continued their calls to remove school superintendent Robert Runcie. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was suspended last month after being criticized for his department’s response.
The families, according to the Associated Press, say Runcie and Israel’s inaction and mistakes allowed the shooting to happen.
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School can also receive mental health counseling and visit therapy dogs Thursday. Volunteers will provide massages and manicures. Security will be heightened there and throughout the district, while maintenance workers will be kept out of Broward schools to avoid banging and loud noises that might upset students and teachers.
Mickey Pope, the district’s chief of student- support services, said school staff have worked with mental health counselors, community groups, and the victims’ families for four months to come up with plans for the one-year anniversary today.
Jessie Frengut, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, said she and some friends, including one who was wounded in the attack, will visit a farm to spend time with animals trained to comfort people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It will just be better for us if we do something on our own,” Frengut told the Associated Press.
Another student, Alexis Grogan, a junior, said she’ll be at the beach picking up trash in dedication to those who died.
“I survived something and I don’t want to waste what I call a second chance at life because those who have passed don’t get that,” she said.
The temporary temple is being built in Coral Springs where half of the school’s students live. David Best, a San Francisco based artist, designed the temple where visitors can leave messages on its walls until May, when it will be burned in a purification ceremony.
During a news conference yesterday, DeSantis called for a statewide grand jury to investigate if school districts were adhering to legislation passed after the last year’s attack. The bill included some gun restrictions while also putting aside millions of dollars for school districts to implement armed campus security.
DeSantis sought the grand jury probe following recent testimony from the head of a commission established to investigate the shooting that some districts haven't adhered to elements of the law.
Survivor Cameron Kasky, who helped organize the March for Our Lives protest in the wake of the attack, thanked the public on Twitter Thursday for “helping us show that Parkland is stronger than anyone who tries to ruin us.”
David Hogg, another survivor and now a gun control activist, added: “Please remember the people we’re stolen from us that day; they are why we fight for peace.”
Fox News’ Michael Sinkewicz, Elizabeth Zwirz, Matt Richardson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.