Parkland One Year Later

On Valentine’s Day last year, I was in the hospital for knee surgery. It was a 15 minute procedure preceded by something like 2 ½ hours in pre-op and followed by a nap on the couch. As I struggled to climb out of the fog left by the anesthesia, I turned on the TV to the news of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. All of a sudden, the name of another town most of us didn’t know before that moment became synonymous with another mass shooting.

And I thought, “Here we go again.”

Because if nothing much changed after Sandy Hook, the likelihood of a change after Parkland was slim.

And yet.

The students of MSD High School stood firm and strong in their vow of “Never again.” The young people who are wise and brave and survivors of an event that has completed altered the course of their lives have pushed all of us to really do something to make it possible for them to be the last group of students to experience this type of tragedy.

It launched my own state into action around school safety. Thankfully, our state legislature recognized that school safety encompasses physical safety as well as emotional well-being. A House Committee was formed. Legislation was introduced. People really began working to ensure that all of our students had better access to mental health supports at school as well as enhanced safety measures for the buildings themselves. Earlier this week, three more bills were filed in the House that dealt with school safety in some way.

Because this time, things are different.

The atmosphere around policy and legislation and the questions lawmakers were asking around here was palpably different. Optimistically different. These issues were being taken on in ways they had not before. And still are one year later.

There are few words of comfort we can offer the family members and friends of those who died at MSD High School that day. They will forever mark time differently. Valentine’s Day will always carry a weight that most of us cannot understand. I am mindful of what this anniversary means for them.

And yet I remain hopeful that the work being done around school safety will continue so that we really can say, “Never again.” I am thankful for the leadership of the MSD High School students in pushing for change. Our future is brighter because of them. Even though they paid a high price to make it so.