Parkland Shooting: A Nation Remembers The 17 Who Didn't Come Home From School

One year after the Valentine’s Day massacre inside a Florida school, students and families leading a nationwide push for school and gun safety paused to mark the anniversary of the deadliest US high school shooting.

School buses brought only a handful of students to a shortened class day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault gun killed 17 people on February 14, 2018.

A moment of silence and community service activities took place at local schools, with the city of Parkland set to host an evening vigil at a park where a similar event the day after the shooting showcased angry grief and spurred calls for action.

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Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland placed 671 t-shirts on the fence of their school to mark the one-year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. They placed one shirt for each teenager killed by guns in 2018.

That equates to nearly two lives each day.

Parkland Shooting Memorial
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Image: Reuters.

Leaders of March for Our Lives, a national student movement formed in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy to fight gun violence, said on Twitter that they were “going dark” for four days.

“During that time, if past trends continue, around 400 people in the US will likely be shot to death,” they said.

From Washington to Florida’s state capital Tallahassee, elected leaders from both parties vowed to keep working to prevent another catastrophe.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the anniversary was a time to “recommit to ensuring the safety of all Americans, especially our nation’s children.”

In fact, messages and condolences came from both sides of US politics, as Republicans and Democrats alike set aside deep divisions to remember the young lives lost in the shooting.

Gun violence represents an epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans in 2017. Of those deaths, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said in December that 60 percent were self-inflicted.

“Why have we not been able to stop this from happening?” asked Jared Moskowitz, a former Democratic state legislator from the Parkland area, now heading the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

He spoke alongside a 35-foot ( 10 metre) memorial to the shooting victims erected at a public arts display in Coral Springs, near Parkland.

Parkland Shooting Memorial
Memorials for the victims were erected around the country. Image: Twitter/ Jaclyn Corin

A former student, Nikolas Cruz, is accused of opening fire with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle inside a freshman classroom building. He has offered to plead guilty if prosecutors do not seek the death penalty, but no such agreement has been reached.

Many families of the dead and many student activists prefer not to mention his name.

READ MORE: 'Burn, Kill, Destroy': Parkland Suspect Interrogation Video Released

Students who did not want to attend school on Thursday were excused. Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie noted that many struggle with post-traumatic stress.

“For some, it is almost as if the incident occurred yesterday. It’s raw and fresh for people,” he told reporters outside the high school, which was guarded by police officers.

Parkland Shooting Memorial
The community service and garden at the Parkland school. Image: Twitter/ Jaclyn Corin

For parent Fred Guttenberg, the year since the shooting already has seen his first Father’s Day, birthday and other emotional milestones without his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, who was killed in a school hallway.

On the one-year mark of Jaime’s death, he was going to visit her at the cemetery. In a social media post, he noted that one year ago he had sent two children to school and only one came home.

“I am forever haunted by my memory of that morning, rushing my kids out the door rather than getting one last minute. Did I say I love you?” he said on Twitter.