On Sunday, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida returned for the first time since confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire with an AR-15, the Daily Mail reports. The students, returning to retrieve backpacks and other personal items that they were forced to leave behind during the shooting, were also there for an orientation before classes resume on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
“Just seeing the building was scary,” Francesca Lozano, a freshman at the school, said, adding that seeing friends “made it a lot better.”
Parents joined students as they walked by the three-story building where the shooting occurred, though it is now cordoned off by a chain-link fence that is decorated with banners of support from schools around the country. The Broward County school district has since proposed demolishing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School freshman building, where the gunman opened fire.
“Parents and students have resoundingly told me they can’t go back into that building regardless of what we do,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie explained. “The other piece I heard is that that building will be used as evidence in any type of legal process that goes forward, so we won’t be able to access the building for a while anyway.”
Standing just outside of the school, where a makeshift memorial now sits, were 17 people dressed as angels. According to organizer Terry Decarlo, the costumes are sent to mass shootings and disasters so the survivors "know angels are looking over them and protecting them,” and many of the angels there to support the high school students were survivors of the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.
“Two of my best friends aren't here anymore,” freshman Sammy Cooper said. “But I'm definitely going to school Wednesday. I will handle it.”
Confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz now faces 17 counts of premeditated murder for the Valentine’s Day shooting.