The Heartbreaking Reality Behind This Photo

Just over a year after this photo was taken, both girls were dead.

On the day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sydney Aiello escaped with her life. However, the grief of losing 17 of her classmates and teachers, as well as the long-lasting effects of enduring such a traumatic event, weighed heavily on her.

Last weekend, at the age of 19, Aiello took her own life.

Now, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community is mourning yet another loss.

Sydney's mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami her daughter struggled with survivor's guilt and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the year following the tragedy. While she reportedly never asked for help, she struggled to attend college classes because she was scared of being in a classroom.

Parkland Shooting
Sydney Aiello took her own life. Image: CBS News

Sydney was also a close friend of Meadow Pollack, one of the students who was shot and killed in the Parkland shooting. Meadow's father, Andrew, became one of the most visible of the Parkland victims' parents when he delivered a searing and emotional speech at the White House just a few days after the shooting, arguing for an increase in school safety rather than changes to America's gun laws.

CBS News journalists embedded with Andrew Pollack as part of the documentary "39 Days", which showcased the birth of a movement as many Parkland students turned their grief into action.

READ MORE: 'Do Something': Parkland Survivors Urge Action After Texas School Shooting

While the nation's attention turned to budding young activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, other Parkland survivors were suffering in silence. The Aiello family's tragedy is an all too painful reminder that trauma effects teens deeply, often quietly, and for years.


Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the shooting, told CBS Miami he worries that more traumatised Parkland teens will take their own lives. So, he has focused his grief and his efforts into suicide prevention.

"It breaks my heart that we've lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas," Petty said. "My advice to parents is to ask questions, don't wait."

There is now a GoFundMe page to help Sydney Aiello's parents and brother pay for her memorial services.

"Sydney spent 19 years writing her story as a beloved daughter, sister andSfriend to many," the page reads.

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

"She lit up every room she entered. She filled her days cheerleading, doing yoga, and brightening up the days of others. Sydney aspired to work in the medical field helping others in need. On March 17th, 2019 Sydney became the guardian angel to many. It was a privilege to have you in our lives. Sydney, we will miss you and always love you. May you find peace in His arms."

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.