MSD Memorial Garden Getting Revamped, Upsetting Creator, Victims' Families

Marjory Stoneman Douglas memorial garden partially gone

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A survivor of the Parkland school shooting says she feels betrayed by changes to a memorial garden she helped create for the victims three years ago.

Victoria Gonzalez and a teacher created "Project Grow Love," the memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the 17 people who were killed back in 2018.

Now Gonzalez says items from the garden have been moved a few feet away to make way for what school officials call a rejuvenation project.

"It feels like utter betrayal and I don't see or feel the compassion from those who should be giving it," Gonzalez said.

Manuel Oliver lost his son Joaquin in the mass shooting and doesn't want the garden moved either.

"You don't move things that organically became a location, you don't need to move it," Oliver said.

Joaquin Oliver and Gonzalez were best friends and she started the garden in his memory. She says some of the memorial rocks were put back since Wednesday when the flowers were removed. But, for Gonzalez, it's the process of how the garden was dismantled that's upsetting to her.

"They should have had a conversation with the creator of this space so that there could have been guidance on what was going where," she said.

In a statement, Broward County Public Schools officials say MSD "remains committed to ensuring the Project Grow Love garden continues to be a site where students and community members can visit and remember those who lost their lives in the tragedy on February 14, 2018."

"There is currently a beautification project underway at the site," the statement continued. "For the project, the school is working with one of the teachers who spearheaded the original garden and has reached out to others who were involved inviting them to participate. The school is collaborating with the City of Parkland to assist with the costs for the beautification, as well as for ongoing maintenance of the site. The beautification project is expected to be completed prior to the start of the new school year. The school community understands the importance and significance of this garden and wants to ensure it remains a peaceful place where all are welcome to visit."

Gonzalez claims the plans were already in place before she was asked to participate. She says Parkland's mayor is asking her to be a part of the new memorial garden, but she's not so sure she wants to partake.

"After it's initially built, I don't think that this is a safe space for me anymore as it was taken from me," Gonzalez said.

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