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PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – Students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marked a somber milestone on Valentine’s Day.
One year ago to the day, a gunman opened fire in a building on campus, killing 17 people.
Wednesday morning, attendance was low as students were told to spend the day honoring the lives lost in a manner they saw fit. Outside the school, a new small memorial of flowers has formed.
At first bell, there were no traditional classes. Instead, there were service learning activities followed by a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m. for the 17 who died.
Many gathered at a memorial garden on the school’s grounds, marked with 17 crosses and stars.
The garden was the brainchild of teacher Ronit Reoven and student Tory Gonzalez, forever linked through loss.
“It was a war zone. You heard the gunshot and debris was dropping on you,” said Reoven.
Reoven was on the first floor of the freshman building in the third classroom the gunman targeted. He shot through the glass, killing one and injuring three others.
Student Carmen Schentrup died before her eyes but Reoven helped save the rest of her class.
On the third floor, student Joaquin Oliver would be killed minutes later. His girlfriend, Gonzalez, said the garden and their labor of love to create it was a way to honor him and the 16 others who died.
“I don’t know how long it will take me but I’ll get there,” she said.
“This will never be an anniversary because an anniversary is something, it’s a happy time that you celebrate,” said Linda Beigel Schulman.
Her son, Scott Beigel, a geography teacher at the school who has been hailed as a hero. He was shot and killed after unlocking the door to his classroom and letting students in to hide from the gunman.
“My daughter was born on Valentines Day 39 years ago today and my son was murdered,” said Beigel Schulman.
A year later, Beigel Schulman said what has changed is her resolve. She’s now devoted her life to reforming gun laws.
“I will make sure that anyone who can hear my voice when I finish speaking will never say it’s just another mass shooting. There is no such thing as just another mass shooting. Nobody should lose a child, nobody should lose a family member, nobody should lose a friend or a co-worker to gun violence,” she said through tears.
The scope and reach of the tragedy have reverberated around the country.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie visited the school. He later made a few remarks about the day and addressed criticism about school security.
“My goal each and every day is to make our district safer than it was yesterday and anything that we can learn that will help us toward that goal I welcome that,” he said.
Runcie said February 14th has been designated A Day of Service and Love to honor the victims and to continue working through the process of healing and recovery.