They gathered to see the newest building on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s campus, built to replace the building where 17 students and staff were murdered in on Valentine’s Day 2018.
But their minds were on the old freshman building, and all that was taken from them there in those walls, which still stand today.
The parents and spouses of murdered Stoneman Douglas students and staff spoke at a dedication ceremony for the new building, held Friday evening under a tent in the new building’s shadow on the southwest side of campus. Elected officials were also in attendance.
The new building will represent a new way forward. When students return to campus on Tuesday, it should give them some sense of normalcy.
Students were learning in portables during the building’s construction.
The loved ones of murdered students and staff said they wanted to make sure their children and loved ones are never forgotten — something they fear might happen because the school does not have any official memorial anywhere on campus, not even in the new building.
A plaque on the new building features the names of Broward School Board members and the building’s architects and construction company. But missing from the plaque is any mention of the victims' names.
Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was killed in his English class, brought his own laminated picture to display the names and faces of the victims at the ceremony. Schachter said he recently learned that October is Child Loss Awareness Month.
“For the 17 victims' families, we feel the loss of our loved ones every day of every month,” he said. “No it doesn’t get better. It doesn’t get easier. You just learn to live. You learn to survive and move forward each day just like the families are doing in each of their own ways.”
The new 1500 building, which cost $18 million to build, replaces the 1200 building where the massacre took place. The funds came from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
“Although the 1500 building represents a way to move forward into the future, educating our students, there should be a way to memorialize all that we lost on that horrible Valentine’s Day nearly three years ago,” Schachter said.
The building where the shooting happened remains on campus, even though it’s been unoccupied and the district has state money to demolish it. That’s because the State Attorney’s office has declared it a crime scene and won’t let it be torn down until the end of the trial and sentencing for the confessed killer. The trial, which was scheduled for summer 2020, has been pushed back indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The district also has $1 million from the state for a memorial, but those plans remain uncertain. Initial plans were to place the memorial on campus, but plans now are to locate it somewhere off-campus more accessible to the community.
School Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed in the tragedy, and Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed, also spoke at the ceremony.
“It has been a long and arduous two and a half years since our lives were forever altered,” Alhadeff said. “But there is still so much progress to be made. ... Time may pass, but these precious lives will never be forgotten.”
Montalto said that while it can be uncomfortable, the community must remember the unspeakable tragedy that happened on the campus, that left 17 dead, 17 more injured and thousands terrorized.
“As generations of future students use the knowledge gained in the 1500 building to shape their futures, they should also learn about our lost loved ones,” he said. “This idea of memorializing those wonderful, bright and caring souls who were taken from our families and community is important. These memorials will allow them to become part of this school’s institutional memory, lasting long after the rest of us have departed from this earth."
©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.