The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 19th

Column: One year since the Parkland shooting changed our hometown forever

Editor's note: Lily Skopp works for The Daily Tar Heel copy desk.

Exactly one year ago, the community we grew up in experienced a tragedy that still, to this day, remains almost incomprehensible. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. forever changed the course of our hometown, killing 17 of our own and thrusting our sleepy suburb into the national spotlight.

When we met each other, we were seniors in high school, covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign stop in Coral Springs (Parkland’s neighboring city) for our respective school newspapers. We were both ready to graduate, to leave behind our hometowns for good.

One year later, we were at the same university and studying for midterms on Valentine’s Day. At first, we heard rumors of a gun at Douglas. Lily got the texts first, from a group chat with classmates inside the school saying that there was an active shooter. 

“We are in (a teacher’s) closet.”

“I don’t know if was a rumor or no but people are saying she didn’t make it.”

Soon, former classmates were tweeting videos of gunshots and screaming, of final goodbyes. Anderson Cooper was standing on the median outside the front gates. By the end of the day, we learned that people were dead. That a lot of people were dead.

And now, another year later, we’ve bonded over the fact that there was a school shooting in our hometown. It’s a horrible thing to be connected by. We join thousands of other students across the country who are part of this unfortunate club, who have all had gun violence traumatize them and severely affect their communities for years to come. 

That afternoon when we were high school seniors seems as if it were in a completely different community. We’ve both been back since the shooting. Nothing is the same. Neither are we. 

It’s difficult to feel spirited this Valentine’s Day. There are people whose Valentine’s Day will now fall on the same day their child was shot dead inside their school. Reminders of the victims are everywhere, on every bumper sticker back home, on social media, cable television. And that’s the way it should be — the country needs to remember the innocent lives that were lost because of failures within gun laws and Broward County’s public school system. These 17 victims could have been part of any of their communities.

We are so immensely proud of the March for Our Lives movement for taking control of this tragedy and forcing the country to acknowledge that children and educators are being slaughtered in classrooms. Young people have a voice in our political discourse, and a large part of it is because of MFOL. 

But it’s hard to directly connect MFOL to Parkland. It’s hard to believe that this group that started in a Parkland living room is one of the most talked about movements in the country. And it’s become even harder to form a personal connection with it. 

But in order to acknowledge the movement, we need to acknowledge the victims. Today, we’ll be commemorating the victims and the families who lost children, spouses, parents. Alyssa, Scott, Martin, Nicholas, Aaron, Jaime, Chris, Luke, Cara, Joaquin, Alaina, Meadow, Helena, Alex, Carmen and Peter. 

These are not just names. Not for me, Misha, living in the neighboring community and attending the rival high school. The individuals were neighbors and friends, who I perhaps shopped next to in Publix or passed by in the street. Not for me, Lily; they were my classmates and teammates as a Stoneman Douglas graduate. 

There’s an anniversary like this for far too many people in this nation. From those who live with gun violence every single day, robbed of media coverage, to high-profile mass shooting deaths to women victims of domestic violence, the effects of gun violence are visible in every aspect of our society. 

We’re writing this on February 13th. Exactly one year ago, few outside of South Florida knew what Parkland was. Seventeen families were still intact. And 17 people were finishing homework, or grading papers, or eating dinner, with no idea that it was their last day on this Earth or that they would inspire a national movement that would invigorate an entire country. 

But we wish they were still here, every single day. 

They should still be here.

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