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Returning to Parkland, Florida for Spring Break

My spring break experience was a lot different than most students. For my spring break, I went back home to Parkland for the first time since I went home to bury the 17 victims murdered on February 14. I went home to support my boyfriend and his family who had to bury their family friend, Meadow. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.

I returned home on March 9, 2018. That night, I attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ boy’s lacrosse first home game. My stepbrother is on the team and I went to show my respect for D-lax and my alma mater. I played on the girl’s lacrosse team my first 3 years of high school. This was the first time I had gone inside the school since I graduated in 2014. I was still in disbelief that a massacre happened at my alma mater.

As we drove up to the school to attend the game, I was battling an overwhelming amount of anxiety. We showed up a little after 7 and the game had started a few minutes prior. We pulled up into the senior lot, which is where you usually park for attending most events and where senior students park. A rush of emotions hit me as I remembered all of the times I had parked in this lot. Coach Aaron Feis used to sit right in front of the gates in the morning and afternoons. But now, I and the rest of the MSD students and staff will never be able to see his face when they drive through. May he rest in peace.

The game was getting a lot of publicity because it was the boy’s first home game of the season, and it was postponed due to the tragedy that struck weeks prior. The parking lot was packed! We had to drive around to the other side of the lot, near the 1200 building, but as MSD students would recall it as the Freshman building. We parked directly in front of the 1200 building, the building that is now called the place where 17 lives ended, and 17 others were injured.

As we got out of the car to walk towards the football field, we walked around the 1200 building. The building is now barricaded by a fence and guarded at all hours by policemen. The fence is covered in banners created by citizens of the community, alumni, and people from all over the world. A world wind of emotions hit me as I looked at the building I used to learn in that is now a crime scene.

We walked towards the field where a long line was formed of students, alumni and families waiting to get into the game. I finally made my way to the front where I was stopped by Ana Ramos, Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ campus monitor. She remembered me and asked how my brother and I were doing. I couldn’t believe she remembered me after all this time.

Sitting in the bleachers and watching the game brought back so many great memories. I missed playing lacrosse and attending this incredible school. MSD has so many award-winning teams that deserve recognition. The game ended with the boys beating Cardinal Gibbons and a catered meal for all the attendees. It was a beautiful night full of emotions.

While I was home for spring break, the one-month mark of the shooting occurred. I couldn’t believe it had already been a month since this tragedy happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The innocent lives that were taken this day will never be forgotten. This can never happen again!

On my final day of spring break, I went to Wynwood’s Art Walk in Miami to view the Parkland 17 exhibit. Dwyane Wade had graciously sponsored the exhibit so that it could be created. The free exhibit was created on March 10, 2018. I had seen so many pictures and videos of the exhibit, and I really wanted to attend. No number of photos or videos could have prepared me for the emotions I endured as I walked through Parkland 17 on March 18, 2018.

The door of the exhibit has all of the 17 victims’ names covering it. When you walk through the door, your heart completely sinks. I barely made it one foot in before I busted into tears. The details of the exhibit are the most heartbreaking. When you walk through the door, on the wall to the left is a tally of the number of Americans who are killed by guns on an average day. In the middle of the room are 14 desks with the names of the students who were murdered and a mini biography of them. Across from the desks are the names of the 3 staff members murdered. Aaron Feis, MSD’s assistant football coach and hero, had his name on a football turf.

The details were truly remarkable. In the far-left corner of the room is a glass case with the photos of the 17 victims. Underneath the glass case is 14 lockers to represent the 14 students murdered. Above the glass case in bold lettering and maroon color says #MSDStrong with an eagle, our school mascot. To the right of the glass case in graffiti, is a quote every student walks past in the front of the school, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Directly on the wall in the middle of the exhibit is a mural of Joaquin Oliver, one of the 17 victims, painted by his father. The words “We demand a change” is written across the photo of Oliver. Written around the photo are messages written by visitors of the exhibit. What’s truly remarkable about this exhibit is on the far-right side of the room, you can find cell phones and a phone booth, where you can call your representatives and discuss gun control.

Everyone in the exhibit is silent, but their emotions are loud. The exhibit was created beautifully with every single detail put into it. I wanted to see the exhibit so badly, but I didn’t know what emotions it was going to dig up. I think about what happened on February 14, 2018, every second of every day. I feel guilty for living while 17 people can no longer. Being back home in Parkland brought up so many emotions. We as a community can never stop talking about the MSD massacre. We need to see a change and make sure this never happens again. The fight will never stop. I am positive, passionate and proud to be an Eagle.

All images are originals from the author.

Cady is a senior at the University of Central Florida who is majoring in Writing & Rhetoric and minoring in Mass Communications. She's a lover of green tea, dogs and all things fashion. Cady has been writing her entire life and she hopes to pursue a career as a lifestyle magazine writer. If you want to follow her on social media, you can find her on Instagram and Facebook!
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