Parkland community remembers shooting victims at interfaith vigil

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In Parkland, 17 candles were lit Thursday night for the students and teachers who lost their lives when they were gunned down a year ago on Valentine’s Day. Thousands of people came together in the community to remember the senseless tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school.

Community reflects on Parkland school shooting a year later

Somber moments took place in Lee County schools all the way to Parkland, where hundreds are gathering to remember the victims of the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting through acts of service and love.

A somber and somewhat surreal day Thursday , as friends, family and loved ones marked one year since the day a gunman shot and killed 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I still don’t know how I did it,” Capt. Anthony Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez, who one year ago was asked to do what many would call the impossible. He was the acting chief on that day and was one of the first on scene, not knowing if his daughter inside the school was OK.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know how I didn’t drive the truck. I was driving into the school to get my kid. I don’t have an answer for you.”

Gonzalez’s daughter Victoria was not hurt in the shooting, but her boyfriend Joaquin is of the 17 who lost their lives on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Spencer Blum, now a senior at the high school, said he will never forget the sound.

“I heard like a boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom” Blum said.

Although time allows for healing, Thursday, it seems, Parkland will need a lot more of it.

“How can you expect somebody to get over that? I don’t think they ever will.”

Collier County remembers Parkland school shooting victims

In Collier County, the community joins at Naples Pier Thursday to spread love and remembrance while recognizing the Parkland school shooting in the state last year.

The message continues to avoid politics and debate and focuses on saving lives and remembering the victims in the shooting.

“In solidarity, we want to stand with them,” student Michaela O’Brien said. “It’s not a Naples high school thing. It’s not a Collier County high school thing. It’s a student [thing].”

O’Brien remembers hearing the news of the 14 students and three teachers who were shot and killed.

“Today in class, I was sitting in silence,” O’Brien said. “I don’t even know the kid’s names. There were students talking about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, so people still remember, and I hear these kids say, ‘Well, my friend got shot.’ Now, that’s something I can’t imagine.”

There were several close calls locally in Collier days after the Parkland shooting. At Naples High School, police arrested a student for making violent threats. A week later, deputies arrested a student who brought a knife to Palmetto Ridge High School as well as for a different incident at Gulf Coast High School.

“Stories are really what impacts people because in the shootings you can see your mother and your child,” O’Brien said. “You can see your family, and you can see your friends. You can see them in the shootings.”

This week, Collier County Public Schools published an announcement to remind people to think twice about their actions.

“On this day, we shouldn’t argue about politics,” O’Brien said. “We shouldn’t spark debates. We just need to hug each other.”

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