Parkland parents use pain from tragedy as motivation for change on anniversary

PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - It’s been one year since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were shot and killed.

In a matter of minutes, an entire community and country was brought to its knees, and the lives of those who lost loved ones were forever redefined.

“My anger hasn’t gone away. My sadness hasn’t gone away,” said Fred Guttenberg, father of victim Jaime Guttenberg. “I actually find myself missing my daughter more with each day, not less.”

Guttenberg is now one of the loudest voices in the nation calling for gun control.

“I live with my daughter’s final seconds in my head on a constant loop, every second of my life,” Guttenberg said. “Her running down the hallway with an active shooter at her back.”

For so many of the Parkland families, it became apparent, almost immediately, that they were going to use their pain from the unthinkable tragedy as motivation for change.

“I decided I had two choices: I could mourn Scott’s death or I could celebrate his life,” said Linda Schulman, mother of teacher Scott Beigel, “and I decided from that point forward to celebrate his life.”

Schulman’s son was killed while holding a door open for students at the school.

She recently helped push through stricter gun laws in New York.

“I cannot bring Scott back, but I can make sure that no matter how senseless, no matter how incomprehensible the murder was, going forward, Scott’s murder was going to save lives,” she said.

7News met with Manny Oliver at a baseball field that the North Springs Little League renamed in honor of his son, Joaquin Oliver.

“There’s a lot of memories here,” said Oliver at the baseball field.

Since his son’s death, the artist has used his artwork to promote common sense gun laws.

Oliver said he’ll spend Feb. 14 in New York City to work on a special project.

“It’s just a day that the others will remember, but I remember Joaquin every single day,” he said.

Some parents are working to build safer schools, like Max Schachter, whose son, Alex Schachter, was killed when the gunman shot through his classroom window.

Schachter currently serves on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission.

“I wanted to be on that commission to find out what happened,” he said.

Schachter has since created Safe Schools For Alex, an organization designed to teach schools and communities how to protect children.

“Parents and schools should be able to go online to look exactly how safe their school is based on best practices,” Schachter said.

Lori Alhadeff lost her daughter, Alyssa Alhadeff, during the massacre.

Last fall, she ran and was elected to the Broward County School Board.

“I knew in order for me to make a change that I needed to have a seat at the table,” she said.

Alhadeff is using her position to bring about change from the inside.

“We want our schools safe, and Feb. 14 happened. Our school wasn’t safe, and 17 people died,” she said.

These parents are now members of a group no one wants to be a part of: parents who lost children in school shootings.

Now, they’re doing everything they can to keep the number of parents who’ve lost children from growing.

“While we’re doing this interview, there’s somebody burying somebody who was killed from gun violence, there’s somebody getting the news that their loved one was killed by gun violence, and there’s somebody planning a funeral for someone killed by gun violence,” Guttenberg said. “That’s not normal, and we gotta stop it.”

“I feel that Alex is with me every day on my journey,” Schachter added. “He is here to help me protect children around the country and prevent this from happening in the future.”

There will be heightened security throughout schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties on Thursday.

Parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about restricting their movements on campus, such as not participating in a walkout.

Remember to take a close look at your child’s schedule, as most after-school activities have been cancelled.

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