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PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – Five thousand people solemnly stood shoulder to shoulder at Pine Trails Park in Parkland Thursday to remember the lives taken one year ago.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims were remembered by name.
“Nicholas Dworet. Aaron Feis. Jaime Guttenberg,” read Reverend Randy Cutter, reading off each of the names of the murder victims. They were also remembered in photos and in words and messages in a series of moving and touching collage panels.
The community event and interfaith service focused on the victims.
“It was peaceful Parkland until Valentine’s Day last year,” said Pastor David Hughes of Church by the Glades. “Last year on Valentine’s Day, I believe heaven wept.”
Hughes spoke eloquently about what this community suffered last year and he mentioned his time with the family of victim Luke Hoyer a year ago. He said that Luke’s sister told him of the family’s plans for this Valentine’s Day.
“We’re gonna play hoops and eat chicken nuggets on Valentine’s day cause that’s what my brother would want,” Hughes said.
It was a story to lift up this crowd of thousands, to remind them of their resolve. At this event, people also pored over these stunning tributes to each victim. Alyssa’s Alhadeff’s brother and mother spoke about their day on Thursday being with family and doing a beach cleanup in Alyssa’s memory.
“It’s important because we’ve got to remember Alyssa,” Robbie Alhadeff said.
“We’re in this together and together we’re going to be one and our voices, our power and we need to keep pushing hard and keep pushing for change and it will happen,” Lori Alhadeff said. “Change is coming.”
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The emotions on display recalled last year — tears and hugs, a profound sense of loss. For Elias Handal, the father of a Broward County high school student, he hopes this event and this day remind people of their commitment to making our schools and our communities safer.
“Kids hear their friends talking,” Handal said. “If something like this is going to happen, say something. They’re worried about snitching. Snitching doesn’t matter. Snitch away.”
On this day of remembrance I spoke with Tom Hixon whose father Chris — a campus monitor at MSD and a former member of the U.S Navy was murdered at the school. Tom’s favorite memory of his dad is when Tom commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“The tradition in the military is that when you commission as an officer you pick an enlisted member to be your first salute and it’s supposed to be someone who’s mentored you and helped you along your path to becoming an officer so it was no-brainer for me to pick my dad,” Hixon said.
It’s those types of stories that remind all of us of what this community lost last Valentine’s Day. But Tom Hixon says there is still goodness to be seen here.
“It doesn’t have to define who the community is and who the people are. Just take away the goodness that we’ve learned from the 17 victims, the great things that they’ve done and use that to be greater in and of ourselves,” Hixon said.