Many of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims’ parents and at least one spouse have become activists in the two years since the massacre occurred.
Their names are familiar on the news and on social media: Max Schachter, Manuel Oliver, Fred Guttenberg, Tony Montalto, and Debbi Hixon. They have involved themselves in various causes, from stepping gun violence to making schools safer to running for the school board in Hixon’s case.
Two parents of victims have already channeled their immense grief into seats at the table where education policy is made.
Lori Alhadeff is a member of the Broward County School Board, always thinking of why she’s there.
“Oh, every second I think about Alyssa and knowing that I need to figure out what went wrong and make it right for the safety of the children moving forward," Alhadeff said.
Alyssa Alhadeff was only a freshman. Her death fuels her mother’s activism.
“Alyssa lives within my heart and she is my drive, she is, I’m her voice,” Alhadeff said.
Alaina Petty died in the same room as her classmate, Alyssa, and just like Alyssa’s mom, Ryan Petty honors his daughter by working to make schools safer.
“She would want me to jump in and get something done, she was an inspiration to me while she was here,” Petty said.
Petty serves on the MSD Public Safety Commission and Gov. Ron DeSantis recently appointed him to the Florida Board of Education. Petty is driven by a tragedy which should’ve been prevented.
“If they had been paying attention to the warning signs, we’d still have our loved ones here so that motivated me to try to do something to change this,” Petty said.
So two years later, are schools safer now? Alhadeff says yes, without question, from new policies to new hardware to more mental health services and awareness.
“It’s the small fixes or changes that make a difference and those little changes turn into bigger changes and if it’s helping one student or helping one parent or making a big policy change, that’s what empowers me to keep going and know that being here is making a difference,” Alhadeff said.
Petty points to changes in state and federal laws.
“We’ve been able to bring people together from both sides of the aisle to get things done and I’m proud of that,” Petty said.
For the community at large, the anniversary is a time of reflection, but to families who lost loved ones, this day doesn’t have the same meaning.
“The community has been wonderful in honoring our loved ones and trying to share our grief and our pain and we’re grateful for that but yeah, it’s like any other day, I woke up this morning without Alaina,” Petty said.
“Every day is a struggle so it’s not like Friday’s any different but we are two years later and it’s very difficult for me and my family to just, know that Alyssa is truly gone and that’s hard, know that she will never be able to drive, she’ll never get married, she’ll never have a baby, and it’s painful, and it hurts, and I really miss her,” Alhadeff said through tears.
The sorrow in Parkland never ends.