Students see emotional triggers all over Florida school
Parkland, Fla. – Aria Siccone returned to school haunted by the image: A terrified boy was knocking on the door of her locked classroom as the shooting began at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but no one would let him in, fearing the shooter would follow.
That boy was fatally shot, one of 14 students and three staff members gunned down two weeks ago. And as classes finally resumed, there were reminders and triggers everywhere on campus: “Even if someone knocks at the door, like that scared me a lot today,” Siccone said.
Under heavy police guard, Siccone joined most of her nearly 3,300 fellow students who returned to the scene of the massacre, meeting first Wednesday with others who shared their terror in their fourth-period classes. Everyone was impacted, but some, like Siccone, were extremely close to the gunfire in the freshman building on campus, which remains cordoned off.
“The one thing that bothers me the most … is how I saw the boy in the door and we couldn’t let him in and that just hurts a lot,” said Siccone, who is 15. If they had, “The shooter could have followed him in and hurt so many more people.”
The hundreds of police officers on hand for the school’s reopening brought comfort dogs, a donkey, and horses, one of which had “eagle pride” painted on its side. A nearby woman held a sign offering “free kisses.” After school dismissed, members of the Guardian Angels wearing their trademark red berets lined the streets at a crosswalk.
Kyle Kashuv, a junior, said he hugged every single teacher he saw.
“In the beginning, everyone was super serious, but then everyone cheered up and it started being the same vibes we had before the shooting,” he said. Kashuv said he was amazed by the outpouring of support from the community, including the police presence, the animals and many well-wishers. There were letters from all over the world and “banners on every single wall,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump convened a bipartisan gathering of lawmakers Wednesday at the White House, where he called for quick and substantial changes to federal gun laws and criticized lawmakers for being too fearful of the National Rifle Association.
The corporate world took action: Dick’s Sporting Goods announced Wednesday that it would restrict the sale of firearms to those under 21 years old, and would immediately stop selling assault-style rifles. Its CEO took on the NRA by demanding tougher gun laws. Later in the day, Walmart announced that it would no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 and would also remove items resembling assault-style rifles from its website.
At Stoneman Douglas, some of the police officers standing guard school carried military-style rifles, and Superintendent Robert Runcie said the police presence would continue for the remainder of the school year. The heavy weapons rattled some students.
“This is a picture of education in fear in this country,” said David Hogg, a 17-year-old senior and shooting survivor at Stoneman Douglas who has become a leading voice in the student movement to restrict assault weapons. The NRA “wants more people just like this, with that exact firearm, to scare more people and sell more guns,” he added.
Florida lawmakers also continued their investigation of how the suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, managed to slip through local law enforcement despite previous warning signs.
The Florida House voted Wednesday to subpoena records from Broward County and the school board, as well as sheriff’s offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties and the city of Coral Springs. Among them: documents on a mentoring program aimed at keeping juveniles out of jail. Critics have suggested this led to lenience for Cruz, but the superintendent said Wednesday that he was never part of the program.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he hopes a gun and school-safety bill is passed before the annual legislative session ends March 9. The measures he proposed did not include arming teachers, but he declined to say whether he would veto a sweeping package that includes that provision. A House bill would allow teachers who get trained and deputized by their local sheriffs to carry concealed weapons in classrooms if their school district allows it.
The Broward superintendent has spoken out against the idea of arming teachers.
Many students said the debate over new gun laws helped them process the traumatic event and prepared them to return.
Alexis Grogan, a 15-year-old sophomore, was concerned that it might be too soon to go on as usual without slain friends such as Luke Hoyer, who sat two seats behind her in Spanish class.
“Seeing everyone was good, but emotionally I was in shambles. I probably broke down into tears 10-plus times and had to walk out of my classes multiple times throughout the day,” she said.
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