Parkland high school shooting survivors and parents place 49 roses at Pulse


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
As 49 white roses were looped one by one into a fence surrounding the gay nightclub Pulse, Jaime O'Dwyer wondered how it came to this.

Steps away from her was the spot where 49 people were murdered by a gunman more than 20 months ago. Two weeks ago, a shooter slaughtered 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in O'Dwyer's community. Days after the Parkland shooing, she and dozens of parents and student survivors had traveled up to Tallahassee to fight for stricter gun laws at the state Capitol building. But despite their efforts, O'Dwyer was still upset.

"It shouldn't have taken [Parkland] for us to react," she said. "After Pulse, there was no reaction at the Capitol. That's the saddest part. That's something to be ashamed of. We did not react more. Why didn't we? It shouldn't have taken this."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
About 40 Parkland parents and student survivors stopped in Orlando on their way home to South Florida Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims of the Pulse attack. They were greeted with hugs by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Pulse survivors wearing shirts that said "We Will Not Let Hate Win." They stood together, roses in hand, as LGBTQ activist Luciel Tschumy read the names of the 49 Pulse victims.

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
"Could you imagine looking in the mirror and seeing your dead son every day for the rest of your life?" Tschumy said. "Never again – never again! In the future, when I have my children, god forbid I ever have to bury them."

After, Parkland City Commissioner Grace Solomon read the names of the 17 victims killed at Stoneman Douglas.

"I hope and pray that we never have to stand anywhere and read the names of additional victims that are taken by gun violence," Solomon said. "I hope we follow the footsteps of our kids and band together to help them achieve peace and harmony in our country."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Parkland students have led a nationwide movement to push for gun reform, including a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. Florida lawmakers have declined to hear an assault weapons ban at least three times after the high school shooting but have proposed other measures like arming teachers, raising the gun-buying age from 18 to 21, establishing a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and increasing the budget for school safety and mental health counseling.

Still, Parkland survivors argue that if stricter legislation had been enacted in response to Pulse, maybe the shooting at Stoneman Douglas would have never occurred. Annabel Claprood, 16, was in the first classroom that the Parkland shooter approached. She and her classmates were stuck in the room for about 30 minutes before a SWAT team came to rescue them.

"This should have been changed after Sandy Hook," Annabel said. "Pulse shouldn’t have even happened."

In Tallahassee, Annabel told state lawmakers she had "a right to life, and so do all of the children. Someone my age shouldn't have seen what I've seen."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
  • Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
Mayor Dyer said he supported a ban on assault weapons coming from the Florida Legislature, but unlike Coral Gables commissioners, he won't pursue a local ban on military-style rifles – Florida law prohibits municipalities from enacting rules on guns.

"We share their grief and their concern," Dyer said in reference to the Parkland parents. "If the shooter in the case in Parkland had not been able to purchase that weapon during the course of the last two years, he could not have carried out the act that he did."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Shelbie Seys, who has three children in Parkland schools, was one of several mothers who organized the trip to Tallahassee for parents to have their voices heard. They left the state capital brimming with frustration over lawmakers who refused to listen.

"Our motto is 'Kids first, politics second,'" she said. "Our platform is fear-free schools. … Make no mistake – we understand exactly what just happened yesterday. They have completely put politics first, kids second. That was evident in the moves that they all made. And that's something that is not acceptable to us."

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