PARKLAND, FLORIDA (Reuters) – Students and teachers traumatised by one of the country’s deadliest mass shootings returned to classes yesterday with white ribbons and white roses to honour the 17 people killed by a gunman in their Florida high school two weeks ago.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reopened most of its doors for about 3,000 students at 7:40 am local time for a half-day schedule. The building where most of the victims died will remain closed indefinitely.
Nicholas Rodrigues, 15, a freshman who lives in Coral Springs with his parents and two sisters, said he walked the mile to school on Wednesday rather than ride his Black Mongoose bicycle because “wanted to think about things.”
School buses arrived shortly after 7 am, with several hundred police officers on hand to escort students, who wore the school’s colors of burgundy and white, to make them feel safe.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the massacre, said he was not afraid for his surviving son, also a student at Douglas, because it is now the safest school in America.
State legislators are considering a bill that would pay to demolish Building 12, widely known as the freshman building, and replace it with a memorial to the victims of the February 14 massacre.
Teenage survivors of the carnage have launched an extraordinary student-led campaign to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the statehouse in Tallahassee for new restrictions on firearms.
But many express deep trepidation about returning to the scene of a shooting rampage that ranks as the second-deadliest act of gun violence at an American public school.
A former Stoneman Douglas student, Nikolas Cruz, 19, who authorities say was expelled last year for unspecified disciplinary problems and had numerous run-ins in the law, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Cruz, who was due back in court yesterday, is accused of carrying out the shooting rampage with a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault weapon that he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer last year, when he was 18 years of age.