• Ryan Finkelstein

First-Person Narrative on Aftermath of Stoneman Douglas Shooting

When I attended Westglades Middle School, once a year we would do a code red drill. This was to prepare us for a situation where there was an active shooter on campus.

I remember always thinking how stupid those drills were. Something like that would never happen in Parkland, the community that is the height suburbia. A town that was just named the safest city in Florida.

Then on Wednesday everything changed, as 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

While I did not end up attending Stoneman, I spent all my formative years living in Parkland.

I played on all-star sports teams where I proudly wore Parkland across my chest.

I walked past Stoneman every day on my way to Westglades.

I played basketball in Stoneman’s gym as a kid and grew up dreaming of becoming a star athlete for the Stoneman Douglas Eagles.

I spent my childhood driving down those same streets where S.W.A.T. teams were called to on Wednesday, and children walked aimlessly in shock from what had just happened to them.

A mass shooting is tragedy for our entire country, as we all mourn the pointless loss of lives.

Still, it feels different when it happens in your backyard. It is harder to comprehend when the victims were once your neighbors.

What makes all this more frustrating is the inability to understand what would make someone set out to destroy so many lives, as the suspect Nikolas Cruz did when he took an assault rifle to his former high school.

The problem is that mental health issues are hard to understand, as they are not easily defined. Justin Epstein, 22, is a Stoneman Douglas alumni that currently attends Florida Atlantic University.

Epstein feels that the killer had to be dealing with depression for him to make the decisions that he did.

“Depression is a serious problem. At first, you feel sad. You feel sad about feeling lonely; about not having very many friends. You feel as if it’s them versus you. You wish that you were one of the “normal” people. You wish for a sense of community. You feel as though you are incapable of being loved. You feel as though you don’t deserve love.” Epstein said.

Epstein does not condone the actions of the killer in anyway. Yet he sympathizes with those who have gone through depression. He understands the slippery slope that depression can be and urges us to take the time to notice the people that are struggling with it, to lend a helping hand.

It is hard to find people like Epstein that can have sympathy for someone that is responsible for so much grief. And while it is natural for a mass shooting to become instantly politicized, as people debate on whether gun control is to blame, many people are too stunned think about that right now.

Alexandra Weismann, 22, is another Stoneman Douglas alumni who is reeling from the horrors brought to here school this Valentine’s Day.

“When I attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Valentine’s Day was always one of the happiest and most cheerful days of the year. Our school allowed you to send carnations to friends, teachers, and lovers. To imagine all these students excited to go to school and take part in this day… for it to end up like this… is unimaginable.” Weismann said.

For those that have not been ingrained in this community, it to difficult understand the perspective of Parklanders right now.

There was a certain aurora about Parkland.

Everything always felt so perfect there. Any societal issues never seemed to bubble to the surface when living in that tight-knit community.

Robert Lazerson, 27, grew up in Parkland as well. He describes the feeling of most people who have lived there and how Wednesday changed everything.

“It always felt like the safest place on earth. Well, I’m not sure I feel like that anymore. I’ve had that sense of security just stripped from me like it never existed. A level of security that withstood 20 plus years of my life was just stolen from me in a matter of seconds with one pull of the trigger. That messes me up. It tears me up inside that a place that I love, my home, has been bruised by some sociopath with no regard for human life.” Lazerson explained.

As we search for answers as to why something like this could happen to Parkland, we are left with many questions. We are left to wonder if gun control or a greater attention to mental health in our country would stop these horrific events from occurring.

We all want change but do not how to get it. For me and my fellow Parklanders, I think it is ok to put those issues aside to simply mourn.

The world lost 17 innocent souls for inexplicable reasons. A town that felt impervious from dire situations has been marred due to the actions of one indignant person.

As the world continues to move forward and everyone eventually forgets about this little suburban town in South Florida, one thing is certain.

Valentines Day will be remembered differently forever in the city of Parkland.

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