Stoneman Douglas High School students returned to school for the first time Sunday
Hundreds of students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., for a voluntary orientation session Sunday. It was the first time students and families have been allowed inside the buildings since a Valentine’s Day shooting at the school left 17 people dead.
The orientation gave students the opportunity to collect their belongings left behind in the aftermath of the shooting and walk through the halls before classes resume on Wednesday, according to ABC News.
It was an emotional day for many Stoneman Douglas students. “Two of my best friends aren’t here anymore,” freshman Sammy Cooper told the Associated Press. Sammy also said his backpack was still where he left it when he dropped it during the shooting.
For student Rain Valladares, returning to school came with reminders of life before the shooting. Valladares left her camera inside the school when she evacuated after the shooting. She shared snapshots from that camera including some of her friends smiling and posing only hours before the shooting. “Our lives have changed entirely,” she wrote. “How I wish we could all just go back.”
Another picture shared by student Jaclyn Corin shows some of the sea of flowers, signs and other tributes left outside the school for the 17 students and adults who died in the shooting.
Another student captured even more of the memorials left for those lost.
Some survivors created their own memorials for their friends who died. Stoneman Douglas student Kira tweeted this somber image of a single red rose in a black-and-white snapshot from the memorial.
While Sunday was the first day back for students, teachers returned for a few hours on Friday, according to the Sun Sentinel. Teachers will be at the school Monday and Tuesday for planning before classes begin on Wednesday. The planning is particularly difficult because the school has opted to permanently close the building where the shooting took place. That leaves 500 students and more than 30 teachers in need of classroom space, the Sun Sentinel reports.
“We’ve already been through a lot, and now we don’t have a classroom,” Felicia Burgin, a ninth-grade English teacher, told the Sun Sentinel.
But despite the difficult memories and challenging logistics, many students were glad to return to their school. Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior who’s emerged as one of the leaders of the movement gathering momentum in the wake of the tragedy, tweeted “it’s good be to home.”
Another student shared a picture of the school with only the words “Hi. I missed you.”
In the midst of heartbreak, some students shared moments of joy. Student Adam Alhanti shared a picture of classmate John Barnitt being consoled by a comfort dog on campus with a smile on his face. Comfort dogs, the ultimate good boys and girls, will be on hand for pets and cuddles with teachers and students throughout the week.
While students are still grieving, their posts on Sunday reflected the activism that’s emerged in the 12 days since the shooting. Stoneman Douglas student Alex Wind tweeted a picture of a school building engraved with the phrase “Be the change you wish to see in the world” along with the caption: “I will, I promise.”
As teachers returned to school this morning, they were greeted by a sign of hope: A rainbow appeared directly above the school.