PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Parents of the students killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are finding ways to turn their deep agony into action, days before the third anniversary of the massacre that claimed 17 lives.
Thursday afternoon, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, the parents of victim Joaquin Oliver, unveiled their newest project at Park Trails Park in Parkland.
“How we feel is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter,” said Manuel.
Because the worst has already happened to the couple. Back in 2018, they learned that Joaquin was among those shot and killed inside Building 12 of the MSD campus on Feb. 14.
The three years that have ensued have been a time of mourning, sadness and focus for the victims’ loved ones.
“It’s about Joaquin and another 40,000 people that died [over the past] three years,” said Manuel. “We are the ones fighting for the safety of your kids.”
Tony Monalto lost his daughter Gina.
“Year 3 is just as painful as Year 1,” he said.
Max Schachter lost 14-year-old Alex.
“He’s not in his bed at night, I can’t tuck him in and give him a kiss and tell him I love him,” he said.
Many of the Parkland families have channeled their grief into activism.
Schachter has developed a website, Save Schools for Alex, to help parents track incidents at their children’s school, from fights and bullying to weapons possession.
“I’m hoping that people will look at the site, and then that’ll start a conversation between parents and schools, parents and school board members,” he said.
Tony Montalto works with the group Stand with Parkland, hoping to pass a state law that will require schools to notify parents of threats, and a federal measure that will include school violence and the Secret Service’s threat assessment efforts.
“We try and make things better for other families, to make sure no one else has to go through the tragedy that affected our family and our entire community,” he said.
Many of the families on Thursday participated in a Zoom meeting with members of the Biden administration to discuss their ideas.
The Olivers, meanwhile, use art to fight for gun reform, especially universal background checks. Their latest brainchild, created with a collaboration of artists, takes the form of postcards, or as they call them, “Shamecards.”
The cards use iconic imagery from vintage postcards to depict mass shootings that have taken place in those states.
“The idea is that our Congress members will receive these postcards from civilians,” said Manuel.
The couple said they want to make their son proud.
“That we can persevere in what we need to accomplish, but we need to be focused on that,” said Patricia.
“We are parents, and we refuse to stop being parents,” said Manuel. “We will protect Joaquin no matter what, until the day that we cannot show our faces to a camera because we’re not here anymore.”
On Friday, schools across Broward County will commemorate the anniversary with a day of service.
For more information about the American Shamecards Collection, click here.
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