PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Marjory Stoneman Douglas students expressed mixed emotions about returning to class for the first time since the school tragedy, as officials continue to investigate the fatal shooting.
Students will return to campus on Wednesday, which marks two weeks since a gunman opened fire on campus, killing 17 and injuring several others.
Inside the school, volunteers joined police officers in putting up welcome signs. Outside, banners of support seen hanging from fences surrounded the campus.
The memorial for the lives lost continued to attract tearful crowds, Tuesday night.
When asked whether two weeks is enough time to be ready to return to classes, Stoneman Douglas junior Ajahne Moore fought back tears as she replied, “Not really, but I just miss my friends, and one thing I’m thankful for is that I didn’t lose any of my friends.”
Others said they’re grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.
“It’s gonna be rough. We’re gonna need a lot of help, but we have a lot of help,” said senior Milan Hamm. “Our principal’s helped, and [Broward School Superintendent Robert] Runcie’s helped us, and just officials and people donating money and just giving back to us has helped us so much.”
The Broward County School Board has made it their mission to make the transition as smooth as possible for students, teachers and staff.
Teachers went back to campus on Monday. One-on-one grief counseling and therapy dogs were on hand at the campus for teachers and will also be available for students come Wednesday.
Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies will be on campus at the main entrance, which is now a media-free zone to make the return orderly and pressure-free.
Runcie will be on hand Wednesday afternoon to brief the media on how the day is going.
“The key words, I say, are flexibility, accommodation and support,” he said. “We’re here for our staff. We’re going to provide the same type of environment when our students arrive on Wednesday morning.”
Many students 7News spoke with said they want to get back to school and regain a sense of normalcy.
“If they don’t, that would have been taken from them as well,” said Stephen Marante, whose friends will be returning to Stoneman Douglas. “They have to go back for themselves. They have to get their routine back. They have to get their sense of normalcy back. Not that anything is normal; this is their new normal. This is the normal for Parkland.”
“Tomorrow is gonna be a tough day for us, but we’ll grieve and hug and cry it out, and then we’ll march for our lives March 24 and we’ll make it,” said a Stoneman Douglas student. “We’ll get through this.”
Stoneman Douglas students have handled the heartache in their own individual ways — through activism, self-care away from the media spotlight, or in Hamm’s case, creating a tribute with a T-shirt emblazoned with Principal Ty Thompson’s favorite motto.
“The saying is, ‘I am positive, I am passionate, I am proud to be an eagle,'” said Hamm. “After this, we really realized what it was to be an eagle and how fortunate we are to have each other and how a hard time brought us all together.”
Staff members at the school tweeted pictures of support signs being hung in the hallway. Mothers from the Parent Teacher Organization and police officers helped with the effort.
Principal Thompson has worked to bring hope to his students and staff. He took to Twitter to convey that positive message to his students.
Local law enforcement agencies like Hollywood Police tweeted their support for the students.
The strength of the Parkland community has inspired those who previously attended the school and others who just wanted to pay their respects.
“Don’t let the people who want to do bad in this world keep you from doing good,” said former student Logan Confer.
“I hope they see it as support,” said Tara Feldman, a woman at the memorial. “I know that the entire country is standing with them, and students from around the country are standing with them.”
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