PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – The events on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School motivated dozens of young people and alumni from the school to work to create safer schools and changes in the laws.
Now, the parents of all 17 victims are joining together themselves to create a powerful new organization to try and prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.
“It’s a club that no parent and no spouse every wants to be in,” Ryan Petty, Alaina’s father, said.
“You feel compelled to make sure that nobody else ever has to go through that,” Philip Schentrup, Carmen’s father, said.
Petty and Schentrup know firsthand the pain of losing a child and now they and the families of the other 15 Stoneman Douglas victims are joining together to create “Stand with Parkland” to make schools safer and try to prevent school shootings in the future.
“If we can come together as diverse as our opinions and our backgrounds and our political ideas are, that means our entire nation can come together to solve this problem,” Petty said.
And it’s a big problem. The goal of Stand with Parkland is 3-fold. First, better protect schools with safety enhancements. Second, increase mental health screening to identify kids with problems and implement support programs for them and third, enact responsible gun laws like universal background checks.
Gina Montalto died in the shooting. Her father, Tony, and several others journeyed to New York Thursday for the organization’s launch.
“On February 14, my wife and I had a happy, whole family. We sent our daughter to high school and she didn’t come home that evening,” Montalto said.
He, like the others, said they felt a need to make a difference.
“We decided to ban together to get our voices heard,” he said, in an effort to “make our schools be safer than they were on February 14.”
Luke Hoyer’s father, Tom, also spoke to CBS4 News from New York.
“We have an empty bedroom in the house. A lot of mementos. A knot in my stomach that I think is permanent,” he said, adding that their nationwide effort will require a lot of outreach and community support.
“We need to do it in a nonpartisan way,” Hoyer explained. “We need to engage American families to help address this issue.”
For these parents this isn’t something they want to do but something they feel they must.
They cited the success of other efforts when all the parents joined together, like working in a bipartisan way to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School High School Public Safety Act that Governor Rick Scott signed into law weeks after the shooting.
“All 17 of us to work towards that goal, to push for very practical things that we think the vast majority of Americans can agree with us on,” Schentrup said.
For Petty, it’s also about honoring the lives of loved ones.
“I think we feel a sense of responsibility to honor their legacy and to make sure that what happened to them didn’t happen in vain,” Petty said.
You can learn more about the efforts of these parents at standwithparkland.org.