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Honor the lost by living life of kindness

Stoneman Douglas alumna reflects on innocence lost and how to move forward

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Flowers pile up outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in memory of the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting.

Photographer: Courtesy

Flowers pile up outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in memory of the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting.

“Parkland, where’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”

Always those words whenever I spoke of my beautiful little city. This safe and fairy tale place of farmers’ markets, children’s playgrounds and community events. I’ve lived in Parkland since I was 10 years old, back when the sidewalks along the main road were only dirt where people rode their horses, and my neighborhood was still blossoming with construction.

My parents put their hard-earned money into moving us to here, where the schools were highly rated and families could be raised in a cocoon of safety. In my 23 years living in Parkland, I’ve never had a moment of fear while walking down the street, watching my own children play in the parks or getting on the bus to school in the morning. Living here has been like a peaceful daydream speckled with sunshine and fragrant green nature.

I graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2002, my brother before me in 1998. I remember walking those hallways, the bouncing echoes of fellow students hurrying to their next class, no concerns other than my next math test or which boy liked me. I ran on the track for gym class and worked happily with a paint brush in art. I had plans for college and was inspired to study nursing by the teachers in my human anatomy classes. I was a regular high school kid with hopes and dreams, a proud Douglas Eagle. I didn’t give a thought to violence or fear because terrible things happened in other places, not Parkland. I kissed my mother goodbye in the mornings and knew I’d be home for dinner.

On February 14, everything I loved about my city changed. The lives of 17 innocent people were stolen, creating a backlash of pain for countless family members, friends and an entire community. On that day those innocents kissed their family members goodbye expecting to come home, the same way I did so many years ago. They had plans and lives filled with hope. They walked the hallways of Douglas without fear.

Then the inconceivable happened, and it only took one person to rip apart an entire city. Parkland and its community has been violated. Tainted. It is now to be known around the world as a place where unspeakable human violence has been committed.

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of those parents, spouses, children and friends who lost their dear ones so brutally. My heart cries out for them and for the loss of innocence of our city. We have all been changed by this tragedy as the very foundation of peace has been ripped out from beneath our feet. With these events has dawned a realization that no place is spared from violence or cruelty even a haven such as Parkland.

On a large scale, there is a call for change in our society as the overall picture needs to be redrawn. A wave of political upheaval is building. As a country we need to put a stop to the thread of evil that snakes among us.

But on a smaller scale, in our individual precious lives, I urge you to create your own changes. When you enter a store, look at the people around you and remember how we are all connected. Let a stranger ahead of you in line and smile into their eyes. Forgive quickly and give freely.

Say “I love you” as often as you can and hold your children tight. Treat life as a gift and take nothing for granted. Be the positive influence in your own sphere and honor the lost by living the best way you are able. Maybe one day you will provide the kindness that changes a soul and prevents them from doing evil.

Remember Parkland. Remember Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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