There’s a garden at the corner of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus. It was founded last year by a teacher, Ronit Reoven, and one of her students, Victoria Gonzalez.
It has the perfect name.
Project Grow Love inspires tributes to the 17 people killed in the massacre, and it’s a place where anyone can come for solace.
“You know after two years, I’ve gotten better with it, over time you find ways to cope,” Reoven said.
We met Reoven and one of her colleagues, math teacher Kim Krawczyk, at the garden this week after school.
“Coming back in the beginning, we were all completely in shock, and so we couldn’t process anything that we were doing, not properly, or anything that had happened,” Krawczyk said, reflecting on the past two years.
One student was killed and several others were shot in Reoven’s psychology class.
The shooter bypassed Krawczyk’s room, but she and her students did not escape the sheer panic.
“When I heard the first shots I knew right away there was a gun in the building,” Krawczyk said.
She and her students could not avoid the carnage in the hallway.
“Kids running still upsets me, fire alarms going off by accident still upsets me, and even though we didn’t leave the room, none of us were prepared for the mayhem that was out in that hallway when we left, when they came to evacuate us with the SWAT team,” said Krawczyk.
Each of these teachers witnessed the unspeakable, and they can’t control when those images come back into their minds.
“You know it’s hard, you try not to ponder too long on it, you try not to dwell in those thoughts, you try to find a distraction to move on, but every day, at some point in the day you think about it,” Reoven explained.
How can they not think about it? They come to work every day and see the three-story 1200 building, in which all the shooting occurred, looming over the campus. It’s a daily reminder of tragedy and also a reminder that everyone’s in a different stage of emotional healing.
“There’s a darkness and there is just a sadness that just lingers because as time moves on and people start to move away from this it’s never lost on me that 17 people were murdered on this campus and 17 people were injured on this campus and I don’t want to normalize that situation,” Krawczyk said, adding that this should have never happened and must not be allowed to happen again.
The teachers who were at Stoneman Douglas High that day and who are still here see their mission these days as much more than just educating children; for some of the students, they are a source of comfort.
“I’m still a support system here at school for the kids that were with me,” Krawczyk said.
“It’s tough in a sense because you’re trying to get through it yourself but also you want to help those that are struggling around you,” Reoven explained.
It’s also a two-way street. Reoven and Kraczyk say the students who were in their classrooms when the massacre occurred also comfort and support them.
“That’s why I stayed at this school,” Krawczyk said. “I’m here for those kids, I have no intention of staying after they leave, none, but as long as they’re here, I’m here for them.”
The garden will be here, too. Honoring the victims, providing a refuge, growing love.