By Lacey Moore
Our town, our tiny, little bedroom community filled with gated neighborhoods and nice cars, is forever changed. We will never need to explain to the outside world that Parkland, Fla., is in South Florida, south of Boca Raton, west of Fort Lauderdale, right on the edge of the Everglades. We will never need to explain that most of us moved here for the amazing public education that our children receive here, where our high school excels in debate and drama as well as sports, where our AP teachers write state curriculum for some of their courses. We will never need to say with great pride that we moved here because Parkland is the “safest city in Florida.”
The world knows us. They have seen our high school, our town, our vigils plastered all over the news on Valentine’s Day 2018 and the weeks following. Our children will forever be known as survivors. Many are still in shock. Many of these princes and princesses of privacy still cannot stand to be alone. Gone is the teenage embarrassment that comes with a hug and an “I love you” from a parent. Gone is the excitement over finding the perfect prom gown. Gone is the innocence.
This is not the way adulthood should come. This is not the meandering between childhood ease and adult problems that most teens face. This was being thrown into the deep end of emotions. Many of these children have chosen to become activists for the causes that they feel can stop tragedies like this from occurring again. Some have thrown themselves into video games to escape for a while. Some cannot bear to be without their peers, even for a day, because they went through this tragedy together. Some cannot bear to be out of the sight of their parents.
We are living in a sea of grief. The red-rimmed eyes. The wilting flowers. The fear that if you are enjoying yourself, it must be wrong to do so while others are suffering the worst pain anyone can bear.
The world has seen our young adults catapulted into the forefront of the #NEVERAGAIN and March for Our lives movements. They have heard the power, conviction, strength and heartbreak in their voices. These children will change the world. These children have sparked conversation and debate the likes of which has not been seen in generations.
As a mother of two children who attend the middle school that shares the property of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I consider myself blessed that my children were spared, that we only have second degree connections to the students and faculty of MSD who were gunned down and slaughtered. I feel guilty that I see this as a blessing.
I have heard the same harrowing story from so many of my friends and neighbors, the nightmarish truth of what their children heard and witnessed. The waking nightmare of finding their children after the massacre with blood spray on their clothes from their classmates and teachers with cuts on their feet from the shattered glass in the hallways. When I first heard this, I was shocked and I cried. The second time I heard this I was shocked and I cried. I am past the 10th telling of the same nightmare by different parents and I am still shocked and I still cry.
This morning I went to my Parkland Chamber of Commerce meeting. Usually our speaker is a local business person or local government official talking about what is new and exciting in our little town and how we can help each other’s businesses grow. Today we had a group therapy session with a grief counselor.
The front of our amphitheater is currently a memorial with 17 angels on the stage. There are 17 individual memorials set up in the field under tents to shield them from the blazing South Florida sun. There are memorials all over our tiny town. You cannot go anywhere without being reminded of our tragedy. Not that any of us will ever forget it. We are all forever changed.
The high school building is covered with banners sent from all over the globe with messages of love and compassion and solidarity. But through all of this, through the grief, the activism, the memorials, the vigils, the rallies, the marches, the constant media crawling through our tiny town, we have something else — hope.
We have hope that we will be the last town, big or small, bedroom community or city, that will know this grief.
Lacey Moore is a mortgage consultant in Parkland, Fla.