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Parkland classroom building is finally being demolished, six years after mass shooting

A memorial is made outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla, Feb. 19, 2018. A California property manager was sentenced, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, to a year in federal prison for sending more than 200 vile online messages to the father of a teenage girl who died in the 2018 massacre at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Gerald Herbert
/
AP
A memorial is made outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla, Feb. 19, 2018. A California property manager was sentenced, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, to a year in federal prison for sending more than 200 vile online messages to the father of a teenage girl who died in the 2018 massacre at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Six years later, the site of one of the worst school shootings in the nation is getting demolished — but with it, comes mixed feelings in the Parkland community, who want to remember victims while letting go of painful memories.

This story was updated on Friday, June 14, 2024 at 3:37 p.m.

In 2018, the 1200 Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became the site of one of the worst school shootings in the nation.

Six years later, it's finally being demolished. Knocking down the 1200 building will take several weeks. It’s a mechanical demolition which means it’ll be taken down piece by piece, instead of imploded.

Demolition began on Friday, June 14. Seventeen people, including 14 students, were killed Feb. 14, 2018, when a lone gunman — who was a former student — opened fire inside the building.

READ MORE: 'Love ultimately always wins': Parkland residents gather to remember and heal

The demolition brings out mixed feelings in the community, who want to remember victims while letting go of painful memories.

Dylan Persaud, who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2021, was at the school during the shooting and was also there for Friday's demolition.

"I've been waiting for this day for a while," he told WLRN. "This is the period on the end of that story."

Since the 2018 shooting, the building has been toured by jurors and politicians and others to better understand what happened that day.

"It’s now time for it to come down. That chapter has closed. Its usefulness as a teaching tool — it’s run its course," said Ryan Petty, a school safety advocate who lost his daughter Alaina in the tragedy.

Just days before demolition, he was at a Florida School Safety Summit in Orlando. Petty was there along with Tony Montalto who lost his daughter, Gina, in the mass shooting.

Demolition begins on the 1200 Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday, June 14, 2024. It comes six years after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school, much of which took place in the classroom building.
Elise Gregg
/
WLRN News
Demolition begins on the 1200 Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday, June 14, 2024. It comes six years after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school, much of which took place in the classroom building.

Montalto told WLRN he understands the hurt associated with the building, but also sees its value in remembering the lives lost.

"My son is concerned when the building comes down, people in the community might forget what happened there," he said. "We always need to remember who was taken because that's the real tragedy of the event."

"It's not that the event occurred — it's that we lost so many wonderful people."

Like Montalto, Debbie Hixon hopes that Broward County will put up a memorial for those lost.

"Let’s tear down the building and put something in that space that can be functional," Hixon told WLRN. "That can remind us of the people that were taken – not how they died, though, how they lived."

Hixon’s husband Chris was the school’s athletic director and died in the shooting while trying to stop the shooter. Since 2020, she’s served as a Broward County school board member.

Hixon, Petty and Montalto told WLRN that though this closes another chapter of the Parkland tragedy, the hurt felt is never really over.

"We'll never have closure," said Montalto. "Every day I wake up and think about Gina: she's frequently my last thought before I go to bed at night."

Bryan Lequerique was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas when the shooting occurred. He came to watch the demolition, and was emotional while speaking to reporters.

"It definitely brings you back to that day," he said, describing what happens to him every time he drives by the building.

"This is very important for the community: it's time to bring an end to this very hurtful chapter in everyone's life."

Though the building is being removed, through advocacy and community, many in the community have worked to cherish the legacies of their loved ones.

"As that building goes down and we look at ways to memorialize the people who died, I think we should do it not just in what we put in that space, but how we live our lives," Hixon said.

Copyright 2024 WLRN Public Media

Elise Catrion Gregg