The mother of a Parkland, Florida school shooting victim accepted her son's posthumous diploma on Sunday, and her t-shirt bore a tragic message.
Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup were among the 17 students killed in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. All four were seniors set on graduating. This weekend, Oliver's mother, Patricia, attended the ceremony in his place.
"This should be my son," read her shirt. It was written in simple black letters over a yellow long-sleeve top. She held her son's graduation cap and diploma over her head in a frame with an expression of resigned mourning.
Patricia Oliver, the mother of Joaquin Oliver, who was slain in the February attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in #Parkland, #Florida, accepts his diploma at the high school's graduation. #NeverAgain pic.twitter.com/r4SqpJrxy1— Michael Deibert (@michaelcdeibert) June 4, 2018
The image sent shockwaves through social media, where the nation has continued watching as these students try to cope with their tragic experience. Joaquin's father, Manuel, has been instrumental in the gun reform protests since the shooting as well. he painted a mural shortly after the tragedy, and has started a campaign called Change The Ref.
Other family members of victims spoke to ABC 10. Some did not feel comfortable attending the graduation, while others faced it head on.
"For me, it is too painful to celebrate without Carmen," said April Schentrup. "But I am proud of Carmen's friends and classmates on their accomplishments. They've overcome so much. I know they will continue to make positive changes."
"Today is the day my sister has been waiting for. Graduation, where she would've been getting her diploma and be on her way to attend college," tweeted Hunter Pollack, Meadow's brother. "This is a sad day, as I will be walking stage to get her diploma for her."
Meadow's best friend, Carly Ogozaly, sent a picture of her graduation cap to CNN. It featured a photo of Meadow with the words "We are still in this together."
The commencement speaker was kept a surprise until the last moment. It turned out to be Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon.0comments
"You won't be classmates anymore. You'll be adults who Facebook search each other at 2 in the morning for the next 10 years," he told the students to a round of laughter. He also addressed the ongoing efforts for gun law reform by some students, and the March For Our Lives movement that they created.
"You took something horrific and instead of letting it stop you -- you started a movement. Not just here in Florida, not just in America, but throughout the whole world," Fallon said. "The whole world has heard your voice, and that was you making a choice."