PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said they experienced a broad range of emotions as they reflected on their first day back at school since the Feb. 14 shooting.
Students arrived Wednesday morning on a modified school schedule, which saw class ending just after 11:30 a.m. Their schedule will remain the same Thursday and Friday as well.
Some students got a high five from Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies and volunteers from the Guardian Angels before they made their way into campus.
“At first, I was nervous, but once I see all the police and stuff, I feel a lot more safer,” said student Braden Freidkes. “The teachers hugging me, it’s a great day for us, and I think it’s going to be better and better every day.”
7News cameras captured strangers singing the gospel song “This Little Light of Mine” as they held signs of encouragement outside the Parkland school, Wednesday morning.
Police officers from across South Florida were on hand to support students on their first day back.
People also brought dogs to welcome students outside the school.
“A wave or a thumbs up or a ‘hi,’ and the kids are glowing. I see them smiling,” said Lisa Fuchs as she held her small dog.
“From the cops, the people with the dogs and everything, I’m really grateful for that,” said student Juan Cuesta.
Amanda Anslow was among those who brought ponies to make the students’ walk inside the school just a little more bearable.
“It made them happier,” she said. “They were coming in the school, and you could see some of them were kind of sad, or they didn’t want to come in the school. I can only imagine that it’s hard, and they’d see our ponies, and it would bring a smile straight to their face.”
Once inside, students had counselors and therapy dogs in classrooms.
“These dogs that you can hug them and kiss them and just pet them,” said student Emanuel Correa. “It was really nice.”
“It was kind of weird seeing teachers again and my friends and stuff,” said student Brandon Travinsky. “It’s a first step in the right direction.”
A student said he was able to reconvene with his friends, which made the first day easier.
“We just talked to each other,” said a student. “If you communicate with your friends, you can just get better.”
“I’m nervous, but I’m just happy to see everyone come together and support each other,” said a sophomore.
“There were a lot of people overwhelmed with emotions,” said student Brandon Dasent-Amos. “There were a lot of people crying.”
Tears came when people least expected it. The loss and sadness proved too much for some.
“Somber sadness. Everyone was trying to grow together and get over the situation,” said junior Kai Koerber, “because at the end of the day, this is not something that is easy for anyone.”
Freidkes said he was on the third floor of Building 12 on Feb. 14. His geography professor, Scott Beigel, was among the casualties during the massacre.
“It’s sad … I had him on eighth period. Everyone is crying, I’m upset, and I miss him a lot,” he said, “but it’s going to be a different atmosphere. You’ve got to get used to it.”
“It’s surreal because it feels like, in a matter of a week, we’ve become activists,” said junior Ramis Hashmi. “We’ve all become stronger, and at the same time, more broken.”
In a Spanish class, students began to cry when the teacher read the name of Luke Hoyer, one of the victims in the shooting.
Angie, a Stoneman Douglas student, added that she has felt the nationwide support for her and her classmates.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s like, we’re still around. We’re still kicking. We’re still sending a message. Don’t forget about us because we can’t forget those who we lost.”
Outspoken student David Hogg also returned to class and said he feels “terrified, angry and mad at our elected officials, like Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Donald Trump.”
“My life is forever changed. My childhood ended with that first gunshot,” Hogg added.
Parents were also worried while returning their children to school.
“I’m so nervous because not a lot has changed,” said Tessa Thomas, a mother who dropped her son off. “We can’t fix what happened, but we can definitely fix moving forward, so a change to give these children some form of security is needed.”
“It’s going to be a rebuilding process, but this is a first step to get back to some type of normal,” said Robert Travinsky, Brandon’s father.
“Now, going forward, we just have to continue fighting,” said Hogg. “We have to make sure that we’re able to march on Washington. We have to make sure that we take this into midterms. We have to make sure that we’re out there getting registered to vote.”
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said Wednesday felt like a family reunion, and he was heartened by the turnout. “We had an attendance of 3,123 students. That’s about 170 short of what we would normally have,” he said.
“Today was a day of healing and everyone getting together,” said student Christopher Powell. “The resources were definitely there. Today was a good day.”
“It’s very emotional. I do miss the freshman building, but we are going to have to move on as a community,” said student Adam Buchwell. “We are Parkland strong.”
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