Florida high school reopens after shooting
Students and teachers hugged and cried Wednesday as they returned under heavy police guard to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time since a teenager with an assault weapon killed 17 people and thrust the huge Florida school into the center of a renewed national gun debate.
The half-day began with fourth period so that the nearly 3,300 students could first be with the people they were with during the shooting two weeks ago.
“In the beginning, everyone was super serious, but then everyone cheered up and it started being the same vibes we had before the shooting. People started laughing and joking around,” said Kyle Kashuv, a junior who said he hugged every single teacher.
On the way in, teens were guarded by hundreds of police officers. The police were accompanied by comfort animals, including dogs, horses and a donkey. One of the horses had “eagle pride” painted on its side. A nearby woman held a sign offering “free kisses.”
After school dismissed, members of the Guardian Angels wearing their trademark red berets lined the streets at a crosswalk.
Kashuv said he was amazed by the outpouring of support from the community, including the police presence, the animals and many well-wishers. There were letters from all over the world and “banners on every single wall,” he said.
Some of the officers carried military-style rifles, and Superintendent Robert Runcie said the police presence would continue for the remainder of the school year. The heavy arms rattled some students.
“This is a picture of education in fear in this country.” The National Rifle Association “wants more people just like this, with that exact firearm, to scare more people and sell more guns,” said David Hogg, who has become a leading voice in the student movement to restrict assault weapons.
About 150 grief counselors were on campus “to provide a lot of love, a lot of understanding” and to help students “ease back” into their school routines, Runcie said.
The freshman building where the Feb. 14 massacre took place remained cordoned off.
Students were told to leave their backpacks at home. Principal Ty Thomas tweeted that the school’s focus would be on “emotional readiness and comfort, not curriculum.”