PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - In an effort to provide closure and support healing, officials will be conducting private visits to the interior of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s 1200 building.
On Wednesday morning, several families visited the school and took the tough tour of the site where they lost their loved ones.
7News cameras captured the parents of one of the victims, Gina Montalto, as they left building for the first time with prosecutors.
“Entering the building where my daughter was shot was among the top five hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Tony Montalto said.
The building holds significance as the location is where a gunman tragically took the lives of 14 students and three staff members on Feb. 14, 2018.
“It’s just another piece of moving forward,” said Debbi Hixon, widow of Chris Hixon.
The visits were requested by the affected families and survivors and will be strictly private. They will have a chance to gather belongings if they wish.
The 1200 building has not been cleaned or used since Feb. 14, 2018, and is surrounded by a chain-linked fence.
“Taking down the building is another door to walk through in the process of grieving,” said Debbi. “So all of those things move you past trying to find a place, where you can settle and finally grieve the way your suppose to.”
Those who wish to see the crime scene before any changes are made will have the opportunity to be accompanied by representatives from the Broward State Attorney’s Office, advocates from Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center, law enforcement officials from the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the liaison advocate for the Broward County School District.
“It’s going to be pure agony but that is where my sweet boy took his last breath,” said Gena Hoyer, mother of Luke Hoyer. “I brought him into this world and I have to see, I have to be with him where he lost his life.”
This arrangement, specifically tailored for the 34 victims involved in the mass shooting prosecution, was established based on their explicit request and with the full cooperation of the Broward State Attorney’s Office, Broward Sheriff’s Office, and Broward School District.
Debbi said one of her children is adamant about going.
“I mean, I’m still trying to process it, I honestly just found out as I was sitting in the cemetery,” said Debbi.
The visits are scheduled to begin on Wednesday and are expected to conclude within the next couple of weeks.
Former Parkland teacher Ivy Schamis said she thinks about the shooting every single day but despite that, she has amazing memories with her students in that building.
Schamis lives out of state now but wishes she could tour the building and gather her things and letters from her students.
“Drawers full of things,” Schamis said. “Letters from students, who wouldn’t want that. I was in that room completely blindsided in an ambush, two students, two amazing students, killed in my classroom. The least they can do is box up what belongs to me and send it to me.”
Debbi said despite the walkthrough nothing will change what happened that day.
After the victims and survivors have completed their visits, custody of the 1200 building will be promptly returned to the Broward County School District.
After each family and staff member gets the chance to go inside, that’s when he demolition process will begin.
“When it comes down though, the important part is that we have a fitting memorial,” Montalto said.
The debris from the building will be hauled away during off-school hours. As far as a memorial, Debbi said she hopes it will be something that marks how these victims lived and not how they died.
The visits will continue over the next few weeks before the school year starts.
A statement released from State Attorney’s reads as follows, “The Montaltos, the Dworets and the Beigel Schulmans visited the 1200 building this morning and were accompanied and assisted by prosecutors, retired prosecutors and victim advocates from the State Attorney’s Office, Eagles’ Haven, and law enforcement from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. School District staff helped with the visits and a liaison advocate was also present.”
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