Fla. fam­ily heal­ing af­ter ‘worst night­mare’

1 son was killed, 1 in­jured in Park­land shoot­ing

The Detroit News - - NEWS - BY TERRY SPENCER As­so­ci­ated Press

Coral Springs, Fla. – Last Fe­bru­ary, Mitch and An­nika Dworet be­came part of a small cir­cle no par­ent wants to join.

Sons Nick and Alex were in class­rooms across from each other at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School when a gun­man opened fire with an as­sault weapon.

Nick, a 17-year-old se­nior with a col­lege swim­ming schol­ar­ship, was among the 17 slain that day. A bul­let grazed younger brother Alex’s head and he was hit by shrap­nel as three stu­dents in his class, in­clud­ing one next to him, were killed. The boys were the only si­b­ling ca­su­al­ties in the Park­land shoot­ing and one of few such in­stances na­tion­ally.

“Our worst night­mare hap­pened. How do you get back from that?” mother An­nika Dworet said.

But hon­or­ing Nick while nurs­ing Alex’s phys­i­cal and emo­tional wounds has be­come their mis­sion.

Their char­ity, Swim4Nick, of­fers col­lege schol­ar­ships for swim­mers and swim clinics, and soon will of­fer wa­ter sur­vival classes for tod­dlers.

“It speaks to Nick and who he was,” said Mitch Dworet, a real es­tate agent. A tat­too of a swim­ming Nick, who as­pired to com­pete for his mother’s na­tive Swe­den in the 2020 Olympics, cov­ers a fore­arm.

A year ago on Valen­tine’s Day, Nick and Alex walked to­gether to the three-story fresh­man build­ing. Nick’s Holo­caust his­tory class met there on the first floor. That af­ter­noon, he im­pressed his teacher by an­swer­ing a ques­tion about the founder of Adi­das, the Ger­man ath­letic brand.

Mo­ments later, the shoot­ing be­gan. The gun­man shot into Alex’s English class and Nick’s class­room be­fore con­tin­u­ing through the build­ing, fir­ing as he went. The Dworets learned Alex was wounded but couldn’t reach Nick. Still, what were the odds that out of 4,000 peo­ple on cam­pus, both would be shot?

Twelve hours later, learned the worst.

“For the first three to six months, we were ba­si­cally fe­tal,” Mitch Dworet said.

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Class­mates, teach­ers, team­mates and staff at Uni­ver­sity of In­di­anapo­lis, where Nick planned to study fi­nance, told them what an im­pres­sive young man he had be­come.

“You are so proud when you get a kid like that,” Mitch Dworet said. “Then it kicks in what we all lost. … And for what?”

But the other son was suf­fer­ing. Alex has arm pain, night­mares and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. Nick and Alex were close, ex­chang­ing con­fi­dences and ad­vice.

“I re­al­ized, ‘I have an­other boy sit­ting in the other room,’” said An­nika Dworet, an emer­gency room nurse. “But how can I sup­port him when I can’t stop my own tears? But luck­ily, friends, fam­ily, the com­mu­nity were just here with love.”

“At first he wouldn’t talk about it. It was very tough,” his fa­ther said.

Coun­selors came. A sur­vivor of the Columbine shoot­ing, now in his 30s, be­came a men­tor, show­ing him life con­tin­ues. A veteran vis­its, bring­ing her ser­vice dog. Alex re­turned to Stone­man Dou­glas over his par­ents’ ob­jec­tions – he didn’t want to stand out at a new school.

Now a sopho­more, Alex to be in­ter­viewed.

Nick’s bed­room re­mains as he left it down to the Oreos stash he hid from his healthy-eat­ing par­ents. A hand­writ­ten mo­ti­va­tional

de­clined quote re­mains on his bulletin board: “When you want to suc­ceed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be suc­cess­ful.”

Though not among the more openly po­lit­i­cal among the vic­tims’ par­ents, the Dworets now speak against the civil­ian own­er­ship of high-pow­ered, mil­i­tarystyle ri­fles like the killer used and want tougher screen­ing of gun buy­ers.

The sus­pect in the shoot­ing legally bought the ri­fle soon af­ter turn­ing 18 de­spite a his­tory of men­tal prob­lems and threats.

“I have an empty room there; I have an empty chair there. My dreams are pfft,” Mitch Dworet said, his voice trail­ing off. The cou­ple’s crit­ics “have not felt it. Their first born wasn’t taken and their other son wasn’t wounded and watched three stu­dents be­ing killed.”

On the an­niver­sary Thurs­day, the Dworets will visit the beach where they spread Nick’s ashes.

“Nick is for­ever swim­ming in the ocean,” his mother said.

Brynn An­der­son / AP

Mitch and An­nika Dworet’s son, Nick, died in the Stone­man Dou­glas High School mas­sacre, and his younger brother Alex was wounded.

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