It’s been difficult for me to feel anything but anger. Even moreso, it’s been difficult for me to process what happened to my hometown.
Coral Springs, Fla. is a quiet Fort Lauderdale suburb that borders Parkland, a large portion of which is zoned to attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And on Valentine’s Day, what began with a text from my mom saying there might be a gun at the high school five minutes away from my house ended up becoming the worst high school mass shooting in American history.
It’s an almost absurd feeling, watching the place I grew up in descend into inconceivable tragedy from 800 miles away. How are the hallways I’ve walked through for French horn solos and brain brawl competitions drenched in blood right now? How has the school I spent four years rooting against in football games undergone a tragedy this immense? And how are there 17 people from Parkland and Coral Springs that just ... aren’t here anymore?
Just last year, a former student arrived in my high school cafeteria with a loaded gun. The same day, our administrators found a 10-page “Terror Day” manifesto from another student. Our school was on lockdown, the police arrested both of them and foolishly, I thought that was it. I thought that Coral Springs High had taken the brunt of it, and this idyllic region of Broward County, Fla. would continue to be safe.
How wrong I was.
I wrote a column about my school’s gun scare, thankful that the worst possible scenario never happened at Coral Springs High. Except now, that scenario did happen, the shock is magnified exponentially, and I’m writing this column from Davis Library, for The Daily Tar Heel instead of The Colt Chronicle.
I don’t want to think of my hometown as the site of the worst high school mass shooting in American history. I want to think of the sunsets I would rush outside to watch sometimes, where I could see the pinks and oranges of the sky dipping into the sawgrass on the edge of the Everglades. I want to think of the days my classmates and I played hooky at the beach, and the nights we spent at ice creams shops in strip malls, complaining how nothing interesting ever happens in Parkland and Coral Springs.
But mostly, I want to think of my hometown as the place that will finally bring an end to senseless gun violence.
I refuse to let the place I grew up in become another trending hashtag on Twitter, because our elected officials care more about the NRA’s blood money than the lives of their constituents’ children. I refuse to watch Florida’s politicians extend their sympathies and prayers to dead students and educators as they vote against basic gun control laws. I refuse to let those 17 innocent souls, which could have easily been my friends or family, die in vain.
It’s cliché, but it wasn’t supposed to happen here, but it did, and now as we’re picking up the pieces from our broken community, we are fighting to make sure no one experiences the same pain we did again.
Hell hath no fury like an angry Broward County, and I assure you, we have a raging voice that will not stop until it is heard.
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