Florida school shooting survivors dread Parkland campus return
The fire alarm, gunshots and piercing cries still ring loudly in Jake Glacer’s mind.
“There’s so much I still hear, I still see,” the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School junior told Fox News. “Four people in my class were shot. I couldn’t imagine going back into the building.”
A week after the Valentine’s Day massacre at the Parkland, Florida high school, students, administrators and lawmakers are now focusing on something more concrete: The future of Building 12, the three-story structure where 17 people were gunned down.
“I have four classes in that building, and I know that if I were to go back in there, all I would be able to think about is what we all heard and what we all saw,” student Kaelan Small told Fox News.
Some families are considering moving because it would be too “traumatizing” to step foot on campus again.
“It’s just something that makes you grow up really quickly, you know?” junior Josh Charo said.
The plan for now is to demolish the building, which has housed mainly the freshman class since it was built almost three decades ago.
“We’re working and have been working since we toured the site to tear down the building and put a memorial there,” said Florida State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation.
Book described the building as a “war zone,” with blood smeared on walls and floors. She said keeping the infrastructure and just renovating the building is not an option.
“We are tearing that building down,” she said.
The school shooting in Newtown, Conn. sparked similar concerns over the future of the building. More than five years later, a memorial is still in its design phase. It took three-and-a-half years to build a new, $45 million elementary school in Newtown, according to former First Selectman Patricia Llodra. She spearheaded the process to decide the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School, holding a series of meetings for the community and elected officials.
Llodra urges Florida lawmakers and the school district not to rush the decision-making process. Instead, she said, they should take the time to involve the people of Parkland.
“It’s one of the most critical decisions the community has to make,” Llodra said. “It’s the first step in the recovery process.”
“The last thing I would have to say is tell the loved ones that are around you that you love them.”
Aztec High School in New Mexico took a different approach after its December shooting. Instead of demolishing the entire school, officials agreed on gutting two classrooms and transforming them into a lounge/memorial.
But the shooting there was on a much smaller scale – two people died, as well as the gunman.
Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the decision made efficient use of the district’s time, space and money.
“To get a project like this done in a month’s time was absolutely amazing,” Carpenter told Fox News. “No one’s going to change what we do at that high school, and that’s to make sure learning takes place.”
Book admits demolishing Building 12, erecting a new building and implementing a memorial park on campus is a daunting task, especially with Florida’s legislative session nearing its end. Estimates for the proposal come in around $25 to 30 million, which would come from state appropriations.
Not to mention the freshman building on Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ campus holds about 900 students, a quarter of the school’s population.
The school, named after a women’s suffrage advocate, opened in 1990. It’s about two hours north of Miami.
Charo acknowledges it will be hard for the school to adjust without the building, saying it “doesn’t seem logical for them to tear it down.”
“I think going back to school is going to be helpful,” Glacer said. “We have to get used to the new normal.”
But, even considering this, Charo and Glacer can’t fathom returning to the place that carries memories of their worst day.
Lawmakers and school officials understand that.
The district is considering splitting up the school day into sessions to avoid using Building 12.
Students are expected to return to school on Feb. 27.
In the meantime, survivors said they are embracing each and every moment with their loved ones.
“The last thing I would have to say is tell the loved ones that are around you that you love them,” said junior Josh Gallagher. “Because you never know when it’s going to be cut short or life is going to be taken away.”