Marjory Stoneman Douglas Parkland
Photo by Sharon Aron Baron

To the families of:

Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Christopher Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang.

Our School District will never forget the 17 members of our school community whose lives were tragically ended on February 14, 2018. We remain committed to doing what we can to honor their lives and to create an enduring memory of these Fallen Eagles on the MSD campus.

On campus and throughout the District, there are many enduring tributes in memory of the students and staff that died that day – some designed by the students and staff themselves – and all coming from a place of honor and love.

  • In the middle of the MSD campus is a 9’ statue of an eagle holding a heart, with fallen feathers representing each of the 17 Fallen Eagles.
  • An outdoor reflection garden features a bench with each of the names.
  • 17 planted trees honor the 17 students and staff.
  • The Kindness Rocks Project includes hundreds of rocks, hand-painted by students with messages of peace, love, and hope.
  • Inside Marjory’s Garden, 17 granite stones line the pathway – one placed in the memory of each student and staff.
  • “Project Grow Love” is a living tribute to the 17 lives.
  • The annual Districtwide “Day of Service and Love” is a school day in which students in every
    Broward County Public School can honor those that died and their families through service projects
    and acts of kindness.
  • At K.C. Wright, our District headquarters, there is a large bronze statue placed prominently in the
    first-floor lobby with the students’ and staff’s names.

We recognize that the memorials already in place on the MSD campus were predominantly initiated through the efforts of students and staff at MSD and that families of those that died are wishing to become more involved in future planning efforts so that their memories and hopes for the commemoration of their own family member can play a bigger role.

It was out of the desire to do just that the District reached out to families a few months ago to begin these discussions. The District expressed that it is our intention to work with the families to develop plans for a permanent memorial that we hope to build at the former site of the 1200 building following the State Attorney’s consent to remove the existing structure.

We have recently met with families to learn more about what they would like to see created on the MSD campus to honor their loved ones. We recognize this discussion may be emotional for the families and that they may each have different ideas and hopes – and some of these may not align with that of staff and students on the campus. But we consider it a high priority to engage in this process until we can identify a memorial that will satisfy as much as possible the desires of all parties. We feel this is achievable and remain committed to seeing that process through to completion.

In a separate effort, a community memorial will be built at a location being determined by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Memorial Committee that includes the City of Parkland, the City of Coral Springs, our School District, the community, and most importantly, the families of those that were killed at MSD. Funding of $1 million has already been secured to initiate this effort.

The newly opened 1500 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was constructed to replace the 1200 Building, where 17 of our beloved Broward County Public Schools children and staff died on February 14, 2018, and 17 more were injured. The purpose of the new building is to provide a state-of-the-art facility for our students and teachers where they can learn and teach, given that the 1200 building can no longer be used as instructional space.

On Friday evening, October 9, families of several students who died attended a private gathering on campus to remember their loved ones and were invited to take a tour of the new building. This was planned in response to a request by the families the month prior. During their visit, an informational plaque, similar to those in every one of our buildings that identifies the School Board of Broward County, the project architect, and construction company, became an object of interest.

These families had met with the school principal and me a week and a half prior to this gathering and tour and asked the District and the school to consider a plaque for the new building that honored their loved ones. It was agreed that plans for such a plaque would be discussed in follow-up meetings. It was emphasized that any such plaque would not be completed and installed in time for the tour a week and a half later. Unfortunately, at the time of this discussion, none of the participants in the meeting were aware that the standard plaque was already in place in the building.

The teachers and staff at MSD were devastated by statements from several bereaved family members that implied that MSD educators, including those who taught at MSD the day of the tragedy, did not wish to remember the individuals who died in this tragedy and that the school had been unwilling to honor them.

You may have read a heartfelt letter written by MSD staff that said, “Several media outlets ran inaccurate stories that painted our campus as being devoid of memorials for the 17. “The statements failed to mention the many efforts at commemoration that had already been put in place by the students and staff.

The students and staff who died in the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14, 2018, will never be forgotten.

The District remains committed to continuing our conversations with the school community and the families of those who died about the construction of an interim memorial that honors their lives – respecting and integrating the intentions of the families while also meeting the needs of the school community.

We expect that whatever is developed can ultimately be part of a building-site memorial to serve as a fitting enduring memory of the individuals whose lives were tragically ended far too soon. We appreciate that this process can be difficult for the families of those that died and time-consuming for all involved, but we remain committed to continuing.

We understand from experiences in other communities where tragedy of this nature has occurred that there will be disagreements at times and frustration and even anger – but we hope that all participants can communicate their views and desires in ways that don’t cause unnecessary distress to members of the school community or the families of students and staff that died.

We will never forget the lives and contributions of the students and staff who died on 2/14/18. We believe that we should thoughtfully process how we can preserve their valuable legacy. We want to take the time to get it right so that the enduring memorial is worthy of the lives it aims to honor and is welcomed by the school community where it will be in place for future generations.

We hope that the families will partner with us on this important effort.

Robert W. Runcie, Superintendent Broward County Public Schools

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