When my editor assigned me this article, I didn't think it would be difficult to just relay the facts. I was wrong. The more research I did, the more horrific this tragedy became real to me. It is often easy to read an article about victims of natural disasters or wars that rage on in all parts of the world. These articles seem remote, and you dismiss the body count, as quickly as you dismiss the information. We can't control Mother Nature; she pretty much does what she wants. We can't control man and his constant urge for power, which causes most wars; even the religious wars. However, what happened on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, is not something we should ever forget.
It was a typical sunny day at the upper-class Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, located in Parkland, Florida. The school day had almost come to an end when at 2:40 p.m. gunshots were heard. Pop, pop, then a barrage of bullets were being fired at students and teachers on the 2nd floor of this three-story building. Screams and shouts of ‘Oh my God, oh my God' could be heard in the chaos, created by one 19-year-old with an AR-15.
When the bullets stopped, and the rampage seemed over, 12 people inside the school had been killed, three people outside including a passerby on the street corner had been shot and killed, and two more victims died in the hospital from their injuries.The aftermath at the school seemed like the set of a high school shoot ‘um bang bang film. Broken windows, overturned desks and chairs, smoke settling to the floor where kids had huddled together in a corner terrified and blood-stained floors and cabinets and walls, so much blood.
I refuse to name the kid with the rifle, I’d like to call him a sick - followed by a four-letter word, but since this is a family magazine, hereafter I will refer to him as Murderer. Eight girls and young women, nine boys and men, ranging in ages 14 to 49 were his victims, real victims not animated figures on a TV or computer screen.
The victims had names; they had dreams, they had hopes, all of these things were taken away from them on a normal day at school. Aaron Feis was the assistant football coach and head security guard for MSDHS. His last act on this earth was to shield students with his body from the Murderers bullets. Athletic Director Chris Nixon, who did a tour of duty in Iraq, was recently awarded 2017 Best Athletic Director in Broward County. Scott Beigel, a geography teacher, was shot and killed outside his classroom while ushering students back to his classroom.
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, was a beautiful brown-eyed young soccer player. Her mother said in an interview, "The last thing I said when I dropped her off at school was I love you." Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, was a sweet and sometimes funny kid according to his big brother, Miquel, who remembers many things about him. Most of all “He was my baby brother.”Nicholas Dworet, 17, was a senior and a good looking blonde kid with a killer smile. He was recruited by the University of Indianapolis swim team and would have been a freshman this fall. Jaime Guttenberg, 14, had long brown hair, a perky little smile which she shared often, and a family that is grieving her loss. Luke Hoyer, 15, a curly headed kid was known for his infectious smile and laugh, who never got in trouble according to his close-knit family.
Cara Loughran, 14, was a dancer, she danced all the time. She was a member of the Irish Dance in South Florida. Gina Montalto, 14, was a brown haired, brown eyed beauty with the sweetest smile. She was also a member of the winter guard on her school’s marching band. Joaquin Oliver, 17, was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States was he was 3; he became a proud naturalized citizen in January of 2017. Known as ‘Guac' to his friends, he liked to use Instagram to send his girlfriend special messages.
Alaina Petty, 14, was a perky little thing that loved to serve her community and her church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was also a member of the junior ROTC at her school, which is a leadership program taught by retired Army personnel. Meadow Pollack, 18, a senior had been accepted at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Meadow’s best friend, GII Lovito posted a long tribute to her friend and ended it with "You are and forever will be loved."
Helena Ramsay, 17, was known for her warm heart and gentle smile. She was a tenacious student that strived for excellence. Alex Schachter, 14, was a member of the marching band and played the trombone. A talented musician he also played the baritone in the school orchestra. Carmen Schentrup, 16, was among ten students that qualified as a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. Peter Wang, 15, was a member of the ROTC program and loved to cook. His parents own a restaurant in Palm Beach, and his culinary acumen most likely was in his blood.
They were sons, daughters, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces, cousins; they are being mourned by family members. They were gifted , good students, happy to just be alive with dreams of the future. They went to school on a Wednesday, and they never returned. I can't imagine the pain and torment their families are experiencing.
The Murderer left a trail of clues, he even bragged on Facebook, yet no one took him seriously even the FBI. Studies have shown that in school shootings, the killers always ‘leak’ their intentions. A recent study conducted by J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist in San Diego, revealed that in most cases of school violence, the killer had done extensive research on previous school shootings. This research usually includes studying them in detail. Meloy explains that most school shootings emulate the killings at Columbine High School in 1999.
There have been more than 40 ‘active shooter’ episodes in schools that have been recorded in the United States since 2000. Just last month two 15-year-old students were killed and 18 more people injured in a school in rural Benton, Kentucky. These episodes have become so commonplace that schools are running annual drills in which students actual practice huddling in classrooms behind locked doors. Including the Parkland shooting, 3 of the deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history have come in the last five months.
I don't profess to know the answers on how we can keep our kids safe when they go to school. Apparently, no one seems to know the answer. However, I do know one thing. The media is so quick to report any tragedy, especially when it involves kids. They seem to think that shoving a microphone in a grieving parent’s face is okay because after all the show must go on, let's get that comment, close up now as a mother sobs for her lost child
It is a known fact that violence begets violence. The media is just feeding this fact by showing minute by minute coverage of these school shootings. And to make things even worse, they keep showing the same pictures over and over again so we can burn the images in our brains. I’m not the only person who thinks like this, but I just happen to have a venue to voice my opinion.
Dr. Meloy, who I mentioned earlier seems to think that the media can do more to prevent mass shootings. He realizes god forbid they forgo covering school shootings, but Dr. Meloy says reporter and editors could and should avoid “describing the killer using words that “might convey a certain cool pose” to some of the teenagers, including “lone wolf” or even “school shooter.” He further states, "From the perspective of a young male, being a school shooter is something that can be idealized, and it brings coolness to the behavior that otherwise does not exist in his life.”
I think the media seems to forget that these killers are being raised with electronic devices that kill and maim with spurts of red stuff simulating blood. They can pick up a controller and fire away at the 55-inch flat screen and watch these animated figures drop like flies.
I'm not saying the media is entirely to blame. We as a society have got to stop worrying about being so damn PC and when we see a weirdo saying and doing stuff that seems suspect we have to say something. And the authorities have got to start taking people's concerns to heart. FYI the Murderer from Parkland was the reason police were called to his house over 30 times. The FBI interviewed him, not once, but twice; the last time just a few months ago.
The FBI has come under some scrutiny lately, and unfortunately, it looks like they blew this one too, they even admitted it. Which is like saying well I thought she might just be a little pregnant. We all know that one, guys, get it together. Our kids have rights too. And one of those rights should be going to school and feeling safe.