MSD STRONG – Four Years Later

West Boca remembers the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Courtesy of Meghan Zaffuta

West Boca remembers the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Lucas M Oliveira, Reporter

Four years ago, on February 14, 2018, 17 lives were tragically lost from this world in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting after a gunman entered the school and opened fire on students and faculty. 

After the shooting took place, many of the survivors let their voice be heard, speaking up against gun violence. Together, they turned their trauma into change, and planned and led marches across the country. Their protests were met with changes in the Florida legislation. 

Four years later, these students are now balancing their lives with college and activism, such as David Hogg. After the shooting, Hogg rose up from the movements he and fellow students led, and helped create the March For Our Lives organization. Also from the March For Our Lives organization is Emma Gonzalez, who was listed in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2018. 

In Washington D.C., Gonzalez stood in silence for six minutes at the lectern to commemorate how long it took for the 17 lives that were lost in Douglas to be shot and killed. Gonzalez is now a student at the New College of Florida in Sarasota.  

Now, at Douglas, every February 14th, all students have a day off, and for the rest of the week, it is optional for students to go into school. If they choose to, then they will engage in a day of service and love, and a number of community service activities.

We interviewed Aaron Zohar, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas with questions about how Marjory Stoneman Douglas is doing now. 

LO: What are the policies the school has regarding threats/violence?

AZ: They take threats very seriously and are not afraid to send someone to an alternative school or even jail for making any sort of shooting threat even if it was made to seem like a joke.

LO: So I assume if someone made a joke like that they would get in trouble?

AZ: Yes.

LO: Do you still have school off for the next week, or is it just the 14th?

AZ: It is optional for students to attend, but all classes are closed and all students who take part in activities to spread awareness, which also counts for volunteer hours.

LO: Do you know what kind of activities are held? 

AZ: The students and any volunteers participate in feeding first responders, cleaning up the beach and the school. And anything more to spread awareness.

LO: Has the atmosphere changed in any way? 

AZ: Not that anyone can notice, since it’s barely mentioned it isn’t really a conversation topic. And whenever it does come up it is usually brushed off. There are emotional support animals all around the school that any student can come up and pet. It was mostly for the seniors and the past upperclassmen that fully went through the shooting. Since then, the school opened back up like three months after what happened. A lot of students were struggling mentally, so they opened up a wellness center where students can visit social workers and therapists free of charge.

LO: Okay, that pretty much covers it. Thank you for your help.

AZ: Anything to spread the word.

The lives of those lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting are listed below.

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

  • Alyssa Alhadeff was a freshman, and a soccer player who was on track to play soccer in college, and hoped that one day she would join the U.S. women’s national team. Months later, after the shooting took place, Alhadeff won a seat on the county’s school board. She was described by her mother, Lori Alhadeff: “She had the fire to fight” and “took every second of her life and did something with it.” 

Scott Beigel, 35

  • Scott Beigel was a geography teacher and a cross-country coach. He was described by student Kelsey Friend as a “really amazing teacher.” Beigel died saving others. 

Martin Duque, 14

  • Martin Duque was a freshman, and a proud member of the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He was described by his brother, Miguel Duque, as “sweet and caring and loved by everyone in his family. Most of all, he was my baby brother.” Duque was posthumously awarded the U.S. Army’s Medal of Valor. 

Nicholas Dworet, 17

  • Nicholas Dworet was a senior, who was a passionate swimmer and would have gone to the University of Indianapolis to join their swim team. He hoped that he could make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. On the day he would have turned 18, his fellow classmates marked his birthday at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. Dworet is described by his family as “a happy young man full of joy and life.” His father, Michael Dworet said: “It’s a broken dream.This kid was a dream. He was the best of us.”

Aaron Feis, 37

  • Aaron Feis was a husband, father and football coach. Feis died running towards the gunfire, trying to shield students. He is described by Scott Israel as “a phenomenal man,” and “one of the greatest people I knew.” Feis’ friend, Brandon Corona, described him as: “He was the epitome of what a hardworking husband and father should be.”

Jaime Guttenburg, 14

  • Jaime Guttenberg was a freshman who loved to dance. Her father, who has become an advocate for gun safety, described her as “Jaime was such a special kid. All of the kids here are.”

Chris Hixon, 49

  • Chris Hixon was a loving husband, father, and role model. Hixon was also an athletic director of the year, a U.S. Navy Reservist, and the school’s head wrestling coach. He died running towards the gunfire. He was described by wrestler Karlos Valentin as “Coach Hixon, for me, was a  father figure,” and “He was such a sweet guy.”

Luke Hoyer, 15

  • Luke Hoyer was a freshman who loved to play basketball. He was described by his aunt as “He was momma’s boy and he loved his family so much. They were very close.” Hoyer’s family plans to spend future Valentine’s days doing what Luke loved.

Cara Loughran, 14

  • Cara Loughran was a freshman who was a member of the Drake School of Irish Dance. After the shooting, dancers in Irish Dance Schools wore purple ribbons in honor of Loughran. Loughran was described by her school as “a beautiful soul who always had a smile on her face.” 

Gina Montalto, 14

  • Gina Montalto was a freshman who was a girl scout, a church volunteer, a soccer player and Color Guard member who earned top-notch grades. Gina is described by her mother, Jeniffer Montalto, as “a smart, loving, caring, and strong girl who brightened any room she entered.”

Joaquin Oliver, 17

  • Joaquin Oliver was a senior who loved basketball. His family later created a nonprofit organization called “Change the Ref,” which was a platform inspired by Joaquin to educate and empower the youth in the movement to end gun violence. 

Alaina Petty, 14

  • Alaina Petty was a freshman who took part in high school Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, and constantly volunteered with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints program. Petty helped to rebuild areas of Florida after hurricane Irma hit in 2017. She is described by her family as “a vibrant young woman” who “loved to serve.” She was awarded the U.S. Army’s Medal of Heroism after her death. 

Meadow Pollack, 18

  • Meadow Pollack was a senior who was going to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton. She is described by her family as “a beautiful girl, inside and out” and “the baby of the family.”

Helena Ramsay, 17

  • Helena Ramsay was a junior who loved cats and music. She is described by her family as “kind hearted and beautiful” and “brilliant and witty.” Ramsay was also described by her friend, Katherine Dadd, as “She was a really good person through and through,” and “one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.”

Alex Schachter, 14

  • Alex Shachter was a freshman who was a talented trombone and baritone player in his high school marching band and orchestra. Alexander Kaminsky, the school’s director of bands, said this: “I felt he really had a bright future on the trombone.” Schachter’s father, Max Schachter, wrote to his son’s band group this message: “Even though this was your first year together, I can assure you that if Alex were still here today, you would have been lifelong friends.”

Carmen Schentrup, 16

  • Carmen Schentrup was a junior who would have attended the University of Florida to become a Medical Scientist. After her death, Schentrup became a National Merit Finalist. She is described by her parents as “mature beyond her years, yet still a kid at heart” and “was exuberant to begin her college experience.”

Peter Wang, 15

  • Peter Wang was a freshman who was a cadet of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Wang was killed as he pointed the door open for his fellow students. West Point Officials called Wang a “brave young man.” Wang was posthumously awarded the U.S. army medal of heroism. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, two of the survivors, Sydney Aiello, 19, and a 16-year-old-boy tragically took their lives while coping with survivors’ guilt. Our hearts go out to all of the victims’ families. 

Please take care of yourselves and stay safe.