Park­land lives for­ever changed

Books, me­dia, col­lege for some in spot­light

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - John Ba­con USA TO­DAY DOROTHY ED­WARDS/NAPLES DAILY NEWS Emma Gon­za­lez Ja­clyn Corin

Two of the teenagers are headed to Har­vard. Two of the adults are fight­ing for their jobs. But all who rose to promi­nence af­ter a gun­man’s bru­tal ram­page at a Florida high school one year ago have been trans­formed.

On Valen­tine’s Day 2018, au­thor­i­ties say Niko­las Cruz walked into a build­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High with a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle. Af­ter six min­utes of shoot­ing and more than 100 rounds fired, 17 stu­dents and staff were killed and 17 more wounded.

Cruz, who had been ex­pelled from the school the pre­vi­ous year, was ar­rested more than an hour later. Stu­dents David Hogg, Emma Gon­za­lez, Ja­clyn Corin and Alex Wind were among a group who would gather at the home of Cameron Kasky, de­ter­mined to en­sure the deaths of their class­mates and friends would not be shrugged off with “thoughts and prayers” and for­got­ten.

Thus, the “Never Again MSD” move­ment was born. The group was a cru­cial or­ga­nizer of the Na­tional School Walk­out of March 14 and, 10 days later, the March for Our Lives that drew more than 1 mil­lion people to ral­lies for safe schools and an end to gun vi­o­lence.

The teens haven’t stopped work­ing, urg­ing young people to reg­is­ter and vote even though some of the stu­dents thrust into celebrity are barely old enough to vote. They lob­bied for tighter re­stric­tions on firearms. They chal­lenged the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and the politi­cians it sup­ports.

The school will mark the an­niver­sary Thurs­day with a Day of Ser­vice and Love. Here is a look at some of the people thrust into the spot­light by the tragedy:

Kasky was a ju­nior “the­ater kid” who had just left a drama class when the car­nage be­gan.

Kasky’s stature grew a week af­ter the shoot­ing when, dur­ing a Cnn-hosted Town Hall, he grilled Florida Repub­li­can Sen. Marco Ru­bio for his close ties to the NRA.

“Sen. Ru­bio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a bar­rel of an AR-15 and not look at Niko­las Cruz,” he said.

But months later Kasky grew to re­gret his treat­ment of the se­na­tor. Kasky says he wants to en­cour­age bi­par­ti­san­ship.

As for his own fu­ture, Kasky said he is “re­ally try­ing to get into col­leges for next year. God knows if it’ll work.”

Gon­za­lez, 19, was a se­nior and pres­i­dent of the school’s Gay-straight Al­liance. She was in the school’s au­di­to­rium when Cruz struck – hid­ing, com­fort­ing fel­low stu­dents and search­ing the In­ter­net for up­dates un­til au­thor­i­ties crashed in and or­dered them to flee. Gon­za­lez rock­eted to fame af­ter tak­ing on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the NRA, politi­cians and ev­ery foe of stricter gun laws in an elec­tri­fy­ing speech in Fort Laud­erdale days af­ter the shoot­ing.

Gon­za­lez, now at­tend­ing New Col­lege of Florida, was hon­ored by Va­ri­ety as one of its five 2018 Power of Women hon­orees. Hogg wrote a book with his younger sis­ter Lau­ren, “#Nev­era­gain: A New Gen­er­a­tion Draws the Line.” In the months af­ter the shoot­ing, Hogg failed to gain ad­mis­sion to UCLA and a few other top schools. That drew venom from Fox News host Laura In­gra­ham, who ac­cused him of “whin­ing” af­ter the re­jec­tions.

In­gra­ham, un­der pres­sure, later apol­o­gized. Hogg took a gap year, ad­vo­cat­ing across the na­tion for youth ac­tivism and gun con­trol. He con­tin­ues to clash with the NRA and con­ser­va­tive broad­cast­ers. He says he will en­roll at Har­vard in the fall.

Corin, pres­i­dent of the school’s ju­nior class, was hid­ing in a class­room dur­ing the tragedy that would take the life of her good friend, Joaquin Oliver.

Corin will grad­u­ate in the spring and says she will at­tend Har­vard in the fall.

Wind was a ju­nior and drama club mem­ber who was among the first stu­dents to call out the pres­i­dent. That af­ter­noon, when Trump tweeted con­do­lences to fam­i­lies of the vic­tims, Wind quickly re­sponded, “Make stricter gun laws then.”

Now a se­nior, Wind re­cently joined other stu­dents in a book co-writ­ten by the MFOL founders called “Glim­mer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Move­ment.”

Cruz, 20, is be­ing held with­out bail on 17 counts of pre­med­i­tated mur­der and other charges that could re­sult in the death penalty. De­fense lawyers have ac­knowl­edged that Cruz was the killer, fo­cus­ing their ef­forts on elud­ing ex­e­cu­tion.

Stu­dents mourn dur­ing a can­dle­light vigil on Feb. 15, 2018, af­ter a shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School that left 17 people dead. A year later, the sur­vivors are re­build­ing their lives.

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