Parkland Tragedy Detailed Through Writing, Art in New Book by Survivors

The poem is called "Case Number," written in disgust at the attention the Parkland shooter was receiving.

“I don’t say your name… I wish I didn’t know you, and I wish no one knew you, I wish there remained the same amount of people in my first period…” wrote the poem’s author, Caitlynn Tibbetts.

Caitlynn writes for fun all the time. This, she wrote for personal therapy.

“My classmates and I felt the empty spot in our room, a vacant chair that should’ve been filled…” Caitlynn wrote in another poem, “All Over Again."

Both pieces are included in the new book, “Parkland Speaks.” A senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Caitlynn is one of 43 contributors to the book, 40 students and three teachers.

“I wanted to give the students an outlet to share their experience, to use their voice,” said Sarah Lerner.

Lerner is the yearbook advisor and she teaches English at Douglas. She wrote two pieces for the book and compiled its collection of poems, harrowing first-person accounts of the shooting in progress, artwork, and photography with a goal in mind.

“That the audience would really get a feel for what it was like for us here,” Lerner explained. “It’s not just what you see on the news, it’s the struggle people have every day, why they continue to fight and speak out, I hope that comes through in the book.”

“After the shooting I spent probably a month just writing poems, writing my thoughts out and I felt that was one of the ways I could slowly begin my healing process,” Caitlynn said.

Her poem, “All Over Again,” captures the trepidation of that first day back at school, two weeks after the massacre.

“My teachers cried harder than I thought an adult could, angry that children had to experience something of this magnitude… tears, silence, darkness, what is strength, and was it shown that day?” Caitlynn wrote.

Now, almost a year has passed, and the MSD community knows there’s no escaping the inevitable flashbacks to the incident and

“There’s all of this uncertainty as we move toward the anniversary, and I don’t know how I’ll feel and react on that day, but I think about them all the time and working on this book I feel was very cathartic for not only me but the students as well,” Lerner said.

There’s no playbook for living through a momentous tragedy. Lerner lost students, while Caitlynn lost friends.

“I feel like it’s definitely hard to put into words, and as someone who likes putting things into words it’s really frustrating not being able to encapsulate it properly, but it’s definitely been a journey,” Caitlynn said.

It’s a journey with many, many miles left to go.

“I felt the wave of guilt crash over me,” Caitlynn wrote in one of her poems. “I got to go back, and 17 others did not.”

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