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‘NEVER FORGET THOSE WHO WERE LOST, BUT CONTINUE TO FIGHT IN THEIR HONOR.’ REMEMBERING THE 17 LIVES LOST TWO YEARS AGO.
Valentine’s Day 2018 started like any other day. Joaquin Oliver walked into school with flowers and a plan for a date with his girlfriend later that afternoon. Helena Ramsey greeted everyone with a smile. Aaron Feis stood outside the student parking lot, waving and welcoming students to school. But on a day meant to celebrate love and happiness, turned into tragedy and loss, as 17 lives were taken. Dreyfoos remembered the victims by lowering the flag to half-staff, telling the stories of those lost on the morning announcements, and holding a moment of silence as each name was read allowed to students and faculty at lunch. Social studies teacher Sarah Ray reflected, holding back tears, that the victims “woke up and went to school one morning and never went home.”
“I remember when the shooting happened and it was just really scary and anxiety-inducing,” visual senior Charlotte De Greling said. “I feel like it’s really important that people keep it in mind because it’s so easy now to be really into something for a couple of months in the time directly after it happens, and then just sort of forget about it. [This] should be something that’s remembered: Not just on its anniversary, but constantly.”
On Feb. 14, the country mourned the two-year anniversary of the massacre that tore a hole into families, communities, and the entire nation. Vigils took place at highschools across the country where students and faculty joined together to remember and honor the victims.
“We can remember the victims by continuing to fight,” digital media sophomore Becca Fineberg said. “Ceremonies like the vigils that they have at schools, or walkouts. [or] anything in their memory, and you know continuing to talk about them and not the shooter. Because he is way less important than they are. [We need to] just continue to talk about them and their families, and who they were as people.”
Fineberg lost one of her close family friends, Jaime Guttenberg, to the shooting two years ago. She claims that [Guttenberg’s] death was the start of her wanting to “be educated on the issue of gun violence and continue the fight for it.” She often can be seen around school wearing an orange ribbon in honor of her late friend, and has dedicated dances such as “Remembering the 17” at dance competitions and conventions around the country. In her Instagram post from September 2019, she opened up and explained the meaning behind her “Remembering the 17” dance routine and wrote, “to my angel, I hope that this dance made you proud. I hope I made you proud.”
“We spent holidays together, father-daughter dances, birthdays, pretty much anything you can imagine. She actually came to see me at one of my dance competitions, which is what kind of kick-started her into wanting to dance. She was always just like the person that you could go talk to for anything. She was kind of just a friend to everybody,” Fineberg said. “For me, it’s just about keeping her memory and her soul alive through dancing, especially because that’s what she loved to do.”
After her death, Guttenberg’s father, Fred Guttenberg, started Orange Ribbons for Jaime, an organization that aims to honor her through supporting causes that were close to her heart, such as the Broward County Humane Society. It also advocates for “common-sense gun safety reforms,” according to their mission statement. Fineberg also expressed that the charity was formed because orange was Jaime’s favorite color and coincidently happened to be the color of gun violence prevention.
“There’s still so much to be done regarding gun safety movements and gun reform in the country because it’s still a rising epidemic,” Fineberg said. “I think the two year anniversary means that it’s just the beginning of continuing to fight [against] the rising epidemic.”
An issue that has become prominent since the shooting is school safety. Some of the new precautions put in place for Palm Beach County include ten mandatory code red drills each year, keeping doors locked at all times, and a new annual five-hour mental health curriculum.
“A lot of the security measures that are in place that you guys see were things that were already supposed to be happening, and just now we’re actually taking it seriously Ray said. “What’s most important, is the voices of the students who are interacting with potential issues that could pop up [are]reporting immediately to the adults. I think that’s what’s the most key to this.”
After what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, youth activism has surged across the United States. Students like Emma Gonzalez have pushed for gun reform and have inspired thousands to do the same. She has led numerous gun reform strikes around the country, and has given powerful speeches such as the one at the March For Our Lives Rally in Washington D.C that made people take a step back and think twice. She claimed today’s generation would be “the kids you read about in textbooks.” More locally, Dreyfoos students have staged walkouts, protests, and have used their art to raise awareness and stress the importance of student safety.
“I feel like what’s changed the most is just like the awareness level, and the intensity with which we address school shooting problems,” De Greling said. “It inspired a really big wave of activism, which I think is really cool.”
Some also felt that youth activism has inspired them to take their own action.
“I think definitely in the two years I’ve become a lot more educated and I’ve learned that just because we’re teenagers doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to help,” Fineberg said. But what I think has changed the most [is] I think it’s gotten a lot more people who were never involved in issues such as gun violence to get involved and have their voices heard. I think it’s really changed the youth of our country the most.”
People across the country make sure that the lives lost on Feb. 14, 2018 are never forgotten because they remain #ParklandStrong.
“Never forget those who were lost,” Fineberg said. “But continue to fight in their honor.”