Flowers, candles and tributes crowd into one of several improvised memorials to the victims of the shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 27, 2018.
Tearful, defiant and surrounded by messages of support, flowers and a strong police presence, the students returned to their school in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, where an ex-student massacred 17 people two weeks ago.
The teenagers entered the school Marjory Stoneman Douglas in this city north of Miami, covered by dozens of police and SWAT teams that formed online in the sidewalks to greet the students, each with a „good day“.
„I’m not afraid,“ said Sean Cummings, 16. „The only thing is that it’s weird to go back after everything that happened.“
„I feel we are better protected than any other school but it is very impressive to see everyone in this place and all those policemen,“ he told AFP.
Hundreds of neighbors and former students greeted the students and encouraged them with posters such as „we love you“ and „we are with you“. A woman offered a hug to a teenager and he extended his arms.
„There are people from all over the world who are communicating with the people here, it’s happy to see people from all over come to help a community,“ Emily Quijano, 16, said on her way to school.
The killing at this school occurred on Valentine’s Day at the hands of an alumnus named Nikolas Cruz, 19, who had legally purchased an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
„It can be very hard for them to return to school,“ said psychiatrist Nicole Mavrides of the University of Miami and part of the Behavioral Sciences team that deployed grief therapists in Parkland.
„But you have to let them know that nobody is waiting for them to be made easy, you have to tell them that it’s okay to be afraid and it’s okay to feel angry,“ Mavrides told AFP.
The massacre of Valentine’s Day has generated a new clamor for the control of weapons in the country, which leave some 33,000 deaths annually.
With the hashtag #NeverAgain, the survivors put pressure on politicians in Washington and Florida to restrict access to weapons and prohibit the sale of semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 that Cruz used.
For years, the US Congress has been paralyzed on this issue, even though polls show that the majority of Americans support tighter control.
But the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) puts pressure on Washington and funds politicians to ensure that the free sale and carrying of arms, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is not threatened.
Republican lawmakers – most at the Washington and Florida Congresses – are reluctant to implement major arms sales reforms.
However, some businesses exert pressure. Several car rental companies announced that they will stop giving benefits to members of the NRA. And, on Wednesday, the outdoor sports store Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it is ending the sale of semi-automatic rifles and that it will not sell weapons to children under 21 years of age.
– An evil world –
President Donald Trump proposed to arm and train some teachers so that they can supposedly defend the children in case of an attack.
Andrew Pollack, Meadow’s father – who died at the age of 18 riddled by Cruz – went to school in Parkland to advocate for this idea.
„I’m going to get this law passed (…) I’ll be the face of the last father of a murdered child,“ he told a group of journalists in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
The Florida Congress is discussing several measures this week aimed at partially limiting access to weapons, although neither these nor a plan by Gov. Rick Scott contemplate banning semi-automatic rifles.
On Tuesday, a committee of the Florida House of Representatives approved a proposal to arm and train some teachers. This will be included as part of the package of measures that the plenary will discuss this week.
„If you do not want to send your child to a school where there is someone armed, look for a gun-free school,“ said Pollack. „I have a live son and I am going to take him to a school where there are weapons, so that he is protected, because we live in an evil world.“