PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Students across South Florida honored the victims of the Parkland shooting with a moment of silence and participating in a day of service.
Through the fog and haze, students began to arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday, the second anniversary of the shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students and staff members.
Liam Kiernan, a MSD student and a survivor of the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting, reflected on what the day now means to him.
“It’s tough, but with a lot of love and a lot of compassion, we can do a lot better,” Kiernan said. “You have to remember that it’s going to make you stronger. You can’t let hate win. You got to live for the people who can’t. You got to live for those who either gave their life or lost their lives.”
He and his classmates took part in Broward County’s Day of Service and Love, and they also served breakfast to first responders.
“I feel that instead of me staying home, I should help out with the people that helped out with the shooting,” student Irina Grass said.
“Helping out is cool,”‘ student Alex Euong said. “Decorating and then the food drive, yeah, it’s all a day of love.”
At 2:21 p.m., the moment the shooting took place, Coral Springs Police cleared their radio.
“This horrific tragedy cannot be erased, but we can honor those who were lost, cherish those who were saved and remember everyone who has been impacted by this event,” police said over the radio.
Inside of MSD, students honored the 17 victims by being together. Outside of the school, some people laid flowers at a memorial garden, and others took a minute to reflect on the tragedy.
Jay Hamm and his therapy dogs have been at the memorial site since the tragedy, and he continues to show for those who need it.
“To learn from the tragedy and make schools safer for the kids to go to,” Hamm said. “It will always be a place that a tragedy happened, and hopefully, we can learn from it.”
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie mentioned some of the improvements the school district has made to safety since the shooting.
“Two years later, I can tell you that this district, unlike any other district I know in this state and this country, has done an enormous amount of work to enhance safety and security, our top priority,” Runcie said.
The district has spent $100 million to make its schools safer, added thousands of cameras and more than 500 security specialists and campus monitors are at schools across the county.
However, Runcie also reiterated that Friday is about the 17 lives that were lost in 2018, their memory and how the community can do better as humans to honor them.
“Embrace things such as love, compassion, forgiveness that we all need as a society to come together to move forward,” Runcie said.
A statue of Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver could be seen standing at the memorial garden outside of the school. On the statue, it said that Oliver, who was known as “Guac” to family and friends, was a victim of the shooting but now stands as an activist for gun control.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony brought a wreath to the garden and knelt before it, along with several other deputies, out of respect for the victims.
Students at the memorial garden said they want to change the narrative in the U.S., and they are going to do so one step at a time with kindness and compassion until change is made.
Schools in Broward County released early on Friday, so teachers and students could be with their families.
Inside the auditorium at Pine Trails Park, around a mile and a half from MSD, hundreds gathered to put together and serve meals in partnership with non-profit Food For The Poor. It was one of the projects that people across the county took part in to honor the victims.
Some volunteers, such as Jordan Miller, were 10 years old when the shooting happened.
“We should do this every day, not just this day, just, like, do it all day, every day,” he said.
Students and people across Broward County took part in a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m., and the minute signified the lives that were lost in the Parkland shooting.
7News cameras captured students and faculty members in Miramar, North Lauderdale, Weston and Parkland bowing their heads to honor the fallen victims.
“I feel like I went from more, like, being scared to now trying to spread awareness,” Cypress Bay High School student MacKenzie Parchment said.
The Miami Marlins also took part in the moment of silence from their spring training complex in Jupiter.
Students at Cypress Bay High School could be seen making dog toys for the Humane Society and preparing meals for the hungry.
“It brings the family a sense of joy that people are trying to help them, and that we’re here for them, although they don’t know who we are, but we’re here for them,” Cypress Bay High School student Nicholas Gitterle said.
“It’s a sad day, so we’re like, ‘How do we honor them?’ And I think everyone’s kind of come together and say, ‘The best way to honor them is to give back and to help and to really push the value of kindness,'” student government advisor Danielle Nascimento said.
Students at William H. Turner Technical School in Miami released a balloon for each victim of the shooting.
Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School students drew messages of kindness on the sidewalks of downtown Miami, turning love into a mission.
“Just spread love, positivity and make sure that we improve and help each other, elevate each other and motivate each other to be a better person overall,” student Isabella Gonzalez said.
In a few hours, around 160,000 meals were packaged at the Pine Trails Park auditorium. Their efforts will feed over 150 children in Haiti, where the meals will be headed.
“When you think of Valentine’s Day, you think of love and hope and all that stuff versus what happened that day,” volunteer Farrah Nickerson said.
“Being surrounded by everyone in the community lifts my spirits a bit,” volunteer Nyan Clarke said.
A “Peace & Love” sculpture, designed by artists Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar, now greets people at the corner of Sportsplex Drive and Sample Road in Coral Springs. The sculpture measures 130 feet in length and stands 30 feet tall.
“In the darkest of times, we need to rely on one another and not be alone,” Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook said.
A candlelight vigil was held in Pembroke Pines on Friday night.
A spiritual ceremony was held at Pine Trails Park, and hundreds gathered to pay tribute to the victims.
Tom and Gena Hoyer, who lost their son, Luke Hoyer, in the shooting, attended the ceremony at the park.
“People just keep showing up, and that means a lot to us,” Tom said.
“They have been one with us since Feb. 14 when this happened,” Gena said. “They have been taking care of us, and they just continue to rally behind us. We try to rally behind them because it didn’t just happen to us. It happened to the whole community.”
During the ceremony, local artists could be heard playing Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” with a guitar, and an announcer read each of the 17 victims’ names out loud.
“I think we’re going to need this every year just to remind us that they’re OK,” Parkland resident Arlene Kearney said.
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