Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Growing Public Memorial Garden at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Rooted in Love

Something is growing there, fed by the love of an entire community.

From barren and dusty to a kaleidoscope of flowers, the northeast corner of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus has been transformed. It is now a living tribute to the 17 victims who died a year ago.

"It's a peaceful area, so you're gonna come, sit and reflect and have some kind of peace as you're here," said Douglas High teacher Ronit Reoven.

"I think there could be a million other ways to remember them but this is something special for us and something special for everyone in our community," said senior Victoria Gonzalez.

They call it Project Grow Love, and that's exactly what Reoven and her student are doing. Victoria and Reoven had an idea, and one month later, the memorial garden is a thriving reality.

There is a garden dedicated to the victims on campus, but there was nothing accessible to the public until now.

Everything is donated, from benches to plants, from hand-painted stones and butterflies etched with the victims' names to a bird bath, from a tribute pole to 17 light-up angels. Random people can and do come any time to plant flowers or shrubs. They leave garden tools there for the next person to use.

"We're elated because the little idea, we did not expect it to be what it is today and the way it bloomed," Reoven said.

Teacher and student work on the garden several times a week, making sure weeds are pulled and the sprinklers are working, and they're always surprised by new discoveries, such as a set of small stones, each intricately painted with a victim's name and a rhinestone glued on.

"Definitely felt like a labor of love, for sure," Victoria says of her efforts.

The garden is more than a labor of love, though, for this AP Psychology teacher who saw four of her students shot in her classroom. It's therapy.

"Every day it's thought about, random times of the day it pops into your head," Reoven said. "It's just images that you can't stop from recurring."

Gunshots and screaming, panic and chaos, it all seems far removed from this oasis. But Victoria lost her friend, Joaquin Oliver, and Reoven lost her student, Carmen Schentrup, about a hundred yards away from the garden.

"We realized that we needed to find a positive outlet to channel that anger and sadness," Reoven said.

"I mean it's just so therapeutic to use your own hands, put the roots in the ground, watch it blossom and grow into something these kids and adults, they can't do anymore and we're gonna do this in honor of them and make sure that something does grow from what happened," Victoria explained.

Something is growing there, fed by the love of an entire community.

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