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Parkland families work to make MSD memorial a reality

Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the first anniversary of the school shooting Thursday.
Wilfredo Lee
/
AP
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019.

They should be remembered for how they lived — not just how they died.

That’s the feeling behind the Parkland 17 Memorial, the public monument that families of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are working to make a reality.

A 150-acre nature preserve on the edge of the Florida Everglades will soon be home to a memorial for the 17 students, teachers and coaches who were murdered five years ago. Tony Montalto’s 14 year old daughter Gina was one of them.

“We think it's really important to have them remembered as the people they were rather than just as victims,” Montalto said. “We think it's important and valuable to the community, as well as the families of the victims, to have a dedicated space where the public can go to remember who these individuals were.”

Montalto is the vice chair of the Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation — the nonprofit that’s been formed to build and maintain the site, which will border the cities of Coral Springs and Parkland — symbolizing the loss that both communities suffered.

“Having a purposeful place to go do that … will allow the memory of those 17 individuals to always be present,” Montalto said, “and hopefully elicit some of the smiles and the memories of the good times that were shared with those people while they were alive and vibrant members of our community.”

A 150-acre nature preserve near the Everglades will soon be home to a memorial for the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. The plot of land was chosen in part because it borders the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs, signifying the loss that both communities suffered.
Courtesy: Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation
A 150-acre nature preserve near the Everglades will soon be home to a memorial for the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. The plot of land was chosen in part because it borders the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs, signifying the loss that both communities suffered.

The foundation has put out a national call for artists to submit design proposals. The group has specified that the memorial must include tributes to each of the 17 victims and that the design should reflect the natural environment and help continue the community’s “collective healing process."

The foundation is accepting donations to help fund the project, though Montalto says the group hasn’t set a budget for the memorial, because they want artists to “dream big."

Design proposals are due March 17, 2023.

School building preserved for trials

Meanwhile, five years after the massacre, the school building where the shooting happened still hasn’t been torn down.

The crime scene at the 1200 building on the MSD campus had been preserved to be used as evidence in the trial of the shooter, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Officials are continuing to preserve the building for the upcoming criminal trial of Scot Peterson — the school resource officer who has been charged with child neglect for hiding during the shooting. Peterson’s attorneys have convinced a judge to allow jurors to view the building during the trial, which is scheduled to begin May 22.

“The State Attorney’s Office will, of course, comply with the judge’s order regarding the Peterson defense team’s request to preserve the crime scene and we will follow whatever procedures the courts recommend when the case concludes,” said Paula McMahon, a spokesperson for the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

A spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools says the district plans to demolish the building as soon as possible, once the trial is over.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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