Five Years After The Parkland School Shooting, What’s Changed (And What Hasn’t)

Five years ago on Valentine’s Day, the slaughter that tore apart 17 families in Parkland, Florida, sparked a surge of student-led protests and bipartisan legislation to address the epidemic of school shootings ravaging the nation.

Nikolas Cruz, the shooter, was given a life sentence without the chance of parole. Charges have been brought against a school resource officer for allegedly failing to stop the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Additionally, a Republican governor approved laws increasing the legal age to purchase handguns in Florida, taking away firearms from thousands of people regarded to be threats, and expanding student access to mental health facilities.

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As political leaders struggle with the politics of gun-control legislation, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act also permits some teachers to be armed. This proposal has been discussed in other states following school shootings.

However, five years after the carnage in Parkland, there have still been several mass shootings in the US, including one on Monday at Michigan State University that left three students dead and five gravely injured.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the US has experienced at least 67 mass shootings this year, meaning instances in which four or more people are shot, excluding the attacker.

Additionally, the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers, will be remembered this spring. Like in Parkland, anger over allegations that the police failed to stop the shooter right away added to the agony in Uvalde.

The Texas tragedy inspired the first significant federal gun safety bill in decades, which was approved in June after years of unsuccessful attempts to pass federal legislation. It represented the most major change in gun laws since the 1994 prohibition on assault weapons, which was repealed after ten years.

The new law is in favor of “red flag” regulations, which give courts the authority to temporarily take firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others. Additionally, money for state crisis intervention programs and school safety is provided through the bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

However, despite the demands of several gun safety activists, assault rifles were not prohibited. The Parkland victims’ legacy continues to live on as the nation considers how to save additional students from dying at school. Below are their stories:

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Parkland Travel Soccer player Alyssa, 14, attended Stoneman Douglas. Alyssa’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, told HLN she sent her off for school Wednesday and said, “I love you.” The mother rushed to the school after the shooting. Too late. “I knew at that point she was gone. I felt it in my heart,” she said.

Alyssa Alhadeff
Alyssa Alhadeff

“Alyssa was a beautiful, smart, talented, successful, awesome, amazing soccer player. You’ll be greatly missed, Alyssa. We love you so much. You’ll always, always be in our hearts.” Alyssa attended a Jewish sleepaway summer camp, Camp Coleman.

“On behalf of the entire Coleman community, we offer heartfelt condolences and prayers for comfort to Alyssa’s family and friends,” the camp posted on Facebook after her death. “May Alyssa’s memory forever be a blessing?”

Scott Beigel, 35

When the firing started, geography teacher Beigel was slain. Kelsey Friend, a Beigel student, said he was shot outside the classroom door and saved her.

Scott Beigel
Scott Beigel

“Mr. Beigel was my hero and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom,” she told CNN. “I am alive today because of him.”

Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania dubbed Beigel a “friend and hero” following the shooting. Kelsey stated the teacher was great and that she will remember him. “If I could see him right now … I’d give him a huge teddy bear to say thank you,” she said. “But unfortunately I can’t do that.”

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Martin Duque Anguiano
Martin Duque Anguiano

Miguel Duque mourned his younger brother Martin, who was kind. “He was a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet. He was sweet and caring and loved by all his family. Most of all he was my baby brother,”  Miguel wrote on a post-shooting GoFundMe page for funeral costs.

“My family and I have no words to describe the event that has happened on this date, all my prayers to the lost ones.”

Nicholas Dworet, 17

The University of Indianapolis swim squad recruited 17-year-old Nicholas. During the gunman’s trial, his mother Annika Dworet said he intended to study finance and move to Boston with his fiancée. “Nick had big goals – bigger than most of us dare to dream of,” she said.

Nicholas Dworet
Nicholas Dworet

A note posted on his bed showed his determination: “I want to become a Swedish Olympian and go to Tokyo 2020 to compete for my country,” Nick’s mother read the note. “I will give all I have in my body and my mind to achieve the goals I have set.”

“Now,” Annika Dworet said, “we will never know if he would have reached his goal to go to the Olympics.”

After the incident, University of Indianapolis president Robert L. Manuel called Nick’s death “tragic.” “a reminder that we are connected to the larger world, and when tragedy hits in places around the world, it oftentimes affects us at home.”

Aaron Feis, 37

After the shooting, football program spokesperson Denis Lehtio stated Feis died after throwing himself in front of children to defend them. “He died the same way he lived – he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”

Aaron Feis
Aaron Feis

CNN said that Feis ran towards gunshots. “That’s Coach Feis. He wants to make sure everybody is safe before himself,” he said. “(He) made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible.”

Feis, 37, helped school football player Chad Lyons through leukemia treatments. “He guided me through them. He would send me prayers. He would send me Bible scripts and just stuff to cheer up my day. Funny memes,” the player said.

“He was just an amazing person to be led on and taught by, and I’m thankful enough to even be in his presence, just going through high school.”

Jaime Guttenberg, 14

Jaime, died aged 14. “My heart is broken,” Fred Guttenberg, her father, posted on Facebook after the massacre.Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister.”

Jaime Guttenberg
Jaime Guttenberg

“I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this,” the father continued. “We appreciate all of the calls and messages and we apologize for not reacting to everyone individually … Hugs to all and hold your children tight.”

Chris Hixon, 49

Debra Hixon, the school’s sports director and wrestling coach, told CNN that her husband and father were great. The widow called Hixon “probably the best man that I” but was too distraught to finish. Hixon, 49, gave students rides, food money, and shelter if required. “He just loved being around kids and giving back to the community,” Debra Hixon said.

Chris Hixon
Chris Hixon

“Every one of those students he thought of as his own kid.” Chris Hixon loves serving his country. In 2007, he deployed to Iraq as a Naval reservist. “He loved being an American and serving his country and he instilled that in our kids,” she said.

Luke Hoyer, 15

According to CNN affiliate WYFF in Greenville, Luke’s grandparents Eddie and Janice Stroud in South Carolina learned about the massacre through TV. Horror ensued.

Luke Hoyer
Luke Hoyer

“The day went by, and we didn’t hear anything about Luke. We kept hoping they would find him wandering around in shock,”  Janice Stroud said. “By 7 o’clock, I said, ‘I don’t like this. This is not good,’” her husband said. “Finally, (police) called us at 1 a.m. and said Luke was among the students that had been killed.”

The bloodbath was unexplainable. “He was a good kid. He … never got in trouble,” Janice Stroud said. “He was the last of my daughter’s children who still lived at home.” Cousin Grant Cox called Luke “an amazing individual – always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh.”

Cara Loughran, 14

Isabel Dalu, a close friend of Cara’s family, testified last year at the gunman’s trial about all the things the 14-year-old was looking forward to before she was shot: Isabel stated Cara might have gotten her driver’s license a week before her 15th birthday.

Cara Loughran
Cara Loughran

Cara was eager to dance in the St. Patrick’s Day parade after restarting Irish dancing. The family intended to visit kinfolk in Ireland that summer.“She dreamed of her first date, her first kiss, and falling in love. Cara dreamed of going to homecoming and prom, she dreamed of graduating at the top of her class with all of her loved ones watching,” Isabel said. “But Cara didn’t make it to any of these milestones.”

Gina Montalto, 14

Winter guard member Gina. Friends called her charming and artistic. Winter Guard International publicly lamented her. “No student should ever go to school afraid,” the group said. The Miami Herald quoted Gina’s middle school color guard instructor. who “was the sweetest soul ever.”

Gina Montalto
Gina Montalto

“My heart is broken into pieces. I will forever remember you, my sweet angel,”  Manuel Miranda said.

Gina’s aunt Shawn Sherlock said her niece was a talented artist on Facebook. “I know somewhere in the heavens she’s designing the latest and greatest trends and has the art book she always carried with her as well,” she wrote.

Joaquin Oliver, 17

The Sun-Sentinel said that Joaquin was born in Venezuela, migrated to the US at 3, and naturalized in January 2017. “Among friends at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he was known as ‘Guac,’ a moniker that appeared on his Instagram account. His interests: football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti, and hip-hop,” the paper said.

Joaquin Oliver
Joaquin Oliver

The Sun-Sentinel claimed that Joaquin’s last social media post was a message to his girlfriend on Instagram two months before his death. Thank you lord for putting a greater blessing than I could ever imagine into my life this past year,” he said. “I love you with all my heart”

Alaina Petty, 14

Her relatives claimed Alaina was vivacious, determined, and altruistic. She volunteered after Hurricane Irma.

“Alaina loved to serve,”  following the shooting. She participated in the Latter-day Saint “Helping Hands” program.

Alaina Petty
Alaina Petty

“While we will not have the opportunity to watch her grow up and become the amazing woman we know she would become, we are keeping an eternal perspective,” her family said.

Alaina, 14, participated in junior ROTC, a leadership program taught by retired Army officers.

Meadow Pollack, 18

Meadow Pollack
Meadow Pollack

After the massacre, university spokeswoman Jamie D’Aria stated Meadow, 18, had been accepted at Lynn University in Boca Raton. “Meadow was a lovely young woman, who was full of energy. We were very much looking forward to having her join our community in the fall,” D’Aria said. Meadow’s family’s friend GII Lovito requested prayers.

“Please say a prayer for the family of an amazing girl I got to call my best friend growing up Meadow Pollack … her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels,” Lovito wrote on Facebook. “Rest In Peace, my beautiful angel. You are and forever will be loved.”

Helena Ramsay, 17

“Valentine’s Day will never look the same for my family,”  After the attack, Fena Cooper claimed on Facebook that Helena was her cousin. “Helena, we miss you dearly and are so incredibly sorry that your life was cut short. You didn’t deserve this. We love you so much and will miss you greatly.”

Helena Ramsay
Helena Ramsay

Curtis Page Jr. added, “Helena was a smart, kind-hearted, and thoughtful person.” “My family lost an absolutely beautiful member today, due to a senseless school shooting,” Page posted on Facebook.

“She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was somewhat reserved, she had a relentless motivation toward her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her. She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone.”

Page hopes Helena inspires others “life well lived, no matter how short.”

Alex Schachter, 14

The Sun-Sentinel said Alex played baritone in the marching band and trombone in the orchestra.

“I felt he really had a bright future on the trombone,”  The publication quoted Parkland High School band director Alexander Kaminsky.

Alex Schachter
Alex Schachter

After the tragedy, Alex’s family started a scholarship campaign on GoFundMe.

“In an effort to continue his memory, this scholarship is being created to help other students experience the joys of music as well as fund increased security at schools. Please help keep Alex’s spirit alive,” the page said. “The money raised will be sent to the Stoneman Douglas Marching Eagles.”

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Carmen was a National Merit finalist but died before celebrating. “Unfortunately, the letter arrived in the mail the day after she passed, so she never knew that,”  Post-shooting Stoneman Douglas student Ariana Ortega informed Florida lawmakers.

Carmen Schentrup
Carmen Schentrup

“She was going to change the world, and I’m sure of that,” Ortega said. “But she doesn’t have the chance now.” Social media mourned Carmen. “Rest In Peace Carmen Schentrup,” one tweet said. “Your family is forever in my thoughts and prayers. I’m so sorry.”

Peter Wang, 15

Peter Wang
Peter Wang

The Sun-Sentinel claimed that Peter was in junior ROTC and his parents operated a West Palm Beach restaurant. Kelsey Friend, his close friend, and other pupils stated Peter was shot while holding a door open for classmates to escape. After the shooting, many joined a White House petition requesting a military funeral for the JROTC member.

“His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area,” the petition said. Kelsey, who attended a culinary class with Peter, “started screaming and crying” when she saw photographs of the deceased on Google.

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“I am wearing my culinary shirt right now to remember him,” she told CNN. Kelsey stated Peter was eager about the Chinese New Year. “Me and my family celebrated it for him, eating Chinese,” she said.

Kelsey said it’s hard to adjust to life without her close friend. “It’s hard to not have him in the hallways anymore because me and him used to laugh with each other,” she said. “He used to make me smile. And now he’s gone.”


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