‘I am forever haunted:’ Parkland mourns a year after shooting

Cheryl Rothenberg embraces her daughters Emma and Sophia as they view a memorial on the one year anniversary of the shooting which claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 14, 2019. Sophia is a student at the school and Emma is a recent graduate. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

By Zachary Fagenson

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – One year after the Valentine’s Day massacre inside a Florida school, students and families leading a nationwide push for school and gun safety paused on Thursday to mark the anniversary of the deadliest U.S. high school shooting.

School buses brought only a handful of students to a shortened class day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault gun killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

A moment of silence and community service activities took place at local schools, with the city of Parkland set to host an evening vigil at a park where a similar event the day after the shooting showcased angry grief and spurred calls for action.

Leaders of March for Our Lives, a national student movement formed in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy to fight gun violence, said on Twitter that they were “going dark” for four days.

“During that time, if past trends continue, around 400 people in the U.S. will likely be shot to death,” they said.

From Washington to Florida’s state capital Tallahassee, elected leaders from both parties vowed to keep working to prevent another catastrophe. Republican President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the anniversary was a time to “recommit to ensuring the safety of all Americans, especially our nation’s children.”

Gun violence represents an epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans in 2017. Of those deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in December that 60 percent were self-inflicted.

“Why have we not been able to stop this from happening?” asked Jared Moskowitz, a former Democratic state legislator from the Parkland area, now heading the Florida Division of Emergency Management. He spoke alongside a 35-foot memorial to the shooting victims erected at a public arts display in Coral Springs, near Parkland.

A former student, Nikolas Cruz, is accused of opening fire with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle inside a freshman classroom building. He has offered to plead guilty if prosecutors do not seek the death penalty, but no such agreement has been reached.

Many families of the dead and many student activists prefer not to mention his name.

Students who did not want to attend school on Thursday were excused. Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie noted that many struggle with post-traumatic stress.

“For some it is almost as if the incident occurred yesterday. It’s raw and fresh for people,” he told reporters outside the high school, which was guarded by police officers.

For parent Fred Guttenberg, the year since the shooting already has seen his first Father’s Day, birthday and other emotional milestones without his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, who was killed in a school hallway.

On the one-year mark of Jaime’s death, he was going to visit her at the cemetery. In a social media post, he noted that one year ago he had sent two children to school – and only one came home.

“I am forever haunted by my memory of that morning, rushing my kids out the door rather than getting one last minute. Did I say I love you?” he said on Twitter.

(Additional reporting and writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)

San Bernardino marks one-year anniversary of shooting that killed 14

Neighbours comfort Jose Gonzales (centre), who was prevented from returning to his wife and his home at the scene of the investigation around the area of the SUV vehicle where two suspects were shot by police following a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California December 3, 2015.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Police and fire officials in Southern California who dealt with the carnage of a mass shooting by Islamic militants that left 14 people dead will mark the one-year anniversary on Friday of the attack that shook even the most hardened emergency responders.

The massacre on Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino by a married couple was one of the deadliest attacks by militants in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, opened fire during a party and training session for San Bernardino County employees, who were Farook’s co-workers, wounding 22 people in addition to the 14 killed.

Police officers were stunned as they entered the conference room where Farook and Malik had fired on dozens of people, according to a report issued this year by the Police Foundation, which spoke to emergency responders and witnesses.

“It looked like a bomb had gone off,” the report said, with blood covering the room and the smell of gunpowder filling the air.

An SUV with its windows shot out that police suspect was the getaway vehicle from at the scene of a shooting in San Bernardino, California is shown in this aerial photo December 2, 2015.

An SUV with its windows shot out that police suspect was the getaway vehicle from at the scene of a shooting in San Bernardino, California is shown in this aerial photo December 2, 2015. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

On Friday, the victims will be remembered with a ceremony at a San Bernardino blood bank, a 14-mile (23 km) bicycle ride – representing one mile for each person killed – and a moment of silence.

The ceremony at the blood bank will be attended by officials and emergency responders, and residents are expected to line up to donate blood. The bike ride by police officers and others will be held a short time later, organizers said.

The moment of silence will be held at 10:58 a.m., the time when the shooting was reported to emergency responders, San Bernardino city spokeswoman Monica Lagos said.

In the evening, another local event is expected to draw at least 2,000 participants to an arena, she said.

Authorities have said that U.S.-born Farook and Malik, a native of Pakistan, were inspired by Islamic extremism. The couple died in a shootout with police four hours after the massacre.

A special report this week by ABC News showed a photo of the gathering the couple had targeted, which included elements of a holiday party such as a Christmas tree and costumes.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told ABC News that Malik had previously expressed discontent with the party.

“She had essentially made the statement in an online account that she didn’t think that a Muslim (her husband) should have to participate in a non-Muslim holiday or event,” Burguan told ABC News.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler)