This is a portion of an editorial that originally appeared in the Miami Herald, distributed by The Associated Press.
The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 forced Florida to change in fundamental ways. The state grudgingly passed gun-control legislation, reversing decades of gun-lobby influence in a matter of weeks. The agonized eloquence of students from the school built a protest movement that spread across the country and led to a nationwide March for Our Lives school walkout.
A reassessment of school safety finally brought action on long-simmering issues, including mental health and armed campus security.
Now, three years after the Valentine’s Day assault that killed 17 people and injured 17 more, it’s apparent that the attack in our community continues to shape the national dialogue on both gun violence and social justice. On the anniversary of this tragedy, as we struggle to find light in the darkness, we can honor the dead by highlighting that progress — and building on it.
We know many of the survivors by name, because they’ve chosen public roles. Lori Alhadeff, a former teacher whose daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the shooting, won a seat on the Broward County School Board in 2018, a platform she uses, in part, to advocate for school safety. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, died in the attack, is an outspoken gun-safety activist.
Former Parkland student David Hogg has become a gun-control activist, pounding the halls of the U.S. Capitol to talk to members of Congress — and, most recently, enduring the harassment of now-Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose unhinged social-media posts and comments spread dangerous lies, including the sickening claim that Parkland was a “false flag planned shooting.”
People like Hogg, Alhadeff and Guttenberg rightfully make sure we don’t forget what happened at Parkland. There are others, too — people not so squarely in the spotlight but still doing their part to make the world a better, safer place.
Some took their efforts to the scene of the horrific crime. For instance, Mary Benton, founder of Bound By Beauty, based in Miami Shores, rallied a team that assisted traumatized students and teachers to create Marjory’s Garden, a butterfly garden to provide sanctuary and sustenance to humans and to wildlife.
“I was absolutely propelled to try to help,” Benton told the Miami Herald Editorial Board. “A garden can represent life and hope and beauty and promise, no matter how tragic and horrible the world can be.”
Kai Koerber, a former Parkland student who now attends the University of California Berkeley said that his experiences after the shooting — followed by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota last year — led him to an interest in mental health and social justice. He’s created a research project that he says will use artificial intelligence to help rein in police misconduct. The work is, fittingly, being done through the university’s Greater Good Science Center.
“I think if you give people the tools to live positive and progressive lives,” he told the Editorial Board, “you won’t have to threaten them with brutality.”