Grief-Stricken Parents Say ‘Goodbye’ To Tragedy Site of Parkland School

Katherine Welles /
Katherine Welles /

The 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a stark reminder of the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is set to be demolished this week, a decision that has been met with relief by many, including two mothers who lost their children in the massacre. The building has remained largely untouched since the day of the tragedy, serving as a painful memorial filled with haunting reminders of the lives lost.

The demolition process is scheduled to begin on Friday, following a delay due to bad weather, with the last school day having been on Monday. Broward County Public Schools have planned the demolition carefully to avoid disrupting school activities.

The building was the scene of immense loss on February 14, 2018, when seventeen students and staff members were killed. Last summer, after the trials of gunman Nikolas Cruz, who received a life sentence, and former school officer Scot Peterson, who was acquitted of child neglect, families of the victims were allowed inside the building for the first time.

Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of slain geography teacher and cross-country coach Scott Beigel, described her visit to the building as harrowing. “It was horrible,” she recounted, noting the bullet holes and shattered glass. Inside her son’s classroom, the sight of his belongings left as they were brought her immense pain. “I could draw Scott’s room,” Schulman said, vividly remembering the details of that fateful day.

The building also hosted visits from politicians, including Vice President Kamala Harris and members of Congress, which sparked mixed reactions among the victims’ families. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Stoneman Douglas alumnus, emphasized the importance of these visits: “It’s important to see, unfortunately, what it looks like when a mass shooting comes to your high school.” However, Patricia Oliver criticized the use of the site as a display, stating, “I wasn’t comfortable seeing they were using the building as an exhibition. This is not a circus.”

Both Schulman and Oliver agree that the demolition of the building is overdue. “I think it’s a long time coming,” Schulman remarked. “We can never forget — we just don’t need that.” She hopes the site will be transformed into a place that brings joy, suggesting a baseball field because “it’s done nothing in the last six years but bring horror.”

As the community looks to heal, the school district has promised to keep stakeholders informed throughout the demolition process, which is expected to take several weeks. The future of the site remains undecided, but many, like Oliver, hope it will become a space that offers comfort and peace to students.

In their grief, both mothers have channeled their energy into advocacy and remembrance. Schulman and her husband founded the Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund to help at-risk kids affected by gun violence. “They can actually leave their cares behind — they can just be kids,” she said. Meanwhile, Oliver and her husband are vocal advocates for gun control through their organization Change the Ref, continuing their efforts in memory of Joaquin. “We need to keep going, we need to keep fighting,” Oliver declared, driven by her son’s memory.