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Parkland Community Pays Tribute To Shooting Victims Three Years Later

Terence Shepherd
People attend a memorial event for the victims of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at Pine Trails Park in Parkland. The circles were drawn by organizers to help people stay distanced in the time of coronavirus.

The city held a livestream of the commemoration on its social media pages for people who couldn't — or didn't feel comfortable — gathering in person this year due to the coronavirus.

Before the ceremony even started, about 200 people had already gathered in person at Pine Trails Park in Parkland to remember the 17 people who died in the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Sunday marked three years since the shooting, which also injured 17 others.

The pandemic didn’t make this year much different from memorials past. But there was an added emphasis placed on the fact that, three years later, people aren’t any closer to grasping the enormity of the tragedy.

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Just like in the two years before this one, members of the Clergy Coalition of Coral Springs Parkland and Northwest Broward took turns offering their words of comfort to the community:

"God be with you and God make it easier for you to go through this pain, every time it comes," Imam Mufti Sultan Mohammed, from the Islamic Foundation of South Florida, said. He shared his condolences for February 14ths in the future, too.

After the in-person interfaith ceremony the city played a narrated video. Students and faculty read the names of each of the victims, and later the video showed their pictures.

For example, one of the things Luke Hoyer was known for was basketball. Nicholas Dworet swam. Alex Schachter played the trombone in the marching band.

"Even now years later, we're still confused by it all wondering 'How can this be?'" the deep male narrator's voice echoed in the city's video. "Causes have been taken up. Volunteerism abounds. Some even say progress has been made. And maybe it has — but still there is a void in our community that nothing can fill. A void that is 17 times larger than any void should ever be."

Also in the video, Dr. Scott Poland from the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University tried to help people cope. He said people should think about the ones they lost.

"It's remembering the contacts," he said. "And remembering the way that person lived. And concentrating on, 'What were the good things about that person?'"

For the few hundred people that came to the park in person, event organizers drew circles in the grass to help people stay distanced from one another. And they put up posters for each of the 17 people killed in the park, in order for people to write messages to them.

Sunday's event focused on the impact that each of the 17 peoples' lives still has on the community. People are still healing three years after that tragic event.

If you or someone you know is struggling, WLRN has compiled a list of mental health resources, here.

Terence Shepherd
Carmen Schentrup was one of the 17 people killed on Feb. 14, 2018. At the City of Parkland commemoration event Sunday evening, organizers put out posters like this one for visitors to write Carmen, and the other victims, messages.