The city of Parkland, Florida came to a standstill on Thursday to remember the victims of a school shooting that took the lives of 17 people on Valentine’s Day one year ago, igniting a student crusade against gun violence.
Survivor Emma Gonzalez, who emerged as a leading activist after the massacre, said the gun control movement known as the March for Our Lives will go offline and silent from Thursday through the weekend.
“Like so many others in our community, I’m going to spend that time giving my attention to friends and family, and remembering those we lost,” Gonzalez wrote in a statement.
“The 14th is a hard day to look back on. But looking at the movement we’ve built – the movement you created and the things we’ve already accomplished together – is incredibly healing,” she wrote.
The massacre was carried out by a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who walked in with a military-style rifle and killed 14 students and three staff members.
The school said it would mark the anniversary with a “non-academic” day, offering counselling services. It will close its doors before 2.20pm, the moment when the shooting started.
A March for Our Lives spokesman said many students will not come to the school on Thursday. No protest marches are expected, nor are student sit-ins or anti-gun campaigning.
“For this date we wanted to stay quiet, simply out of respect,” said 15-year-old shooting survivor Ryan Servaites.
“You know, this affected us very personally. We know this community. We’re from Parkland and we love Parkland and we simply don’t want to turn this into a day of protest when it really should be a day of mourning.”
Parkland and neighbouring Coral Springs, home to many students of the activist movement, will hold events to honour the victims of the shooting.
In Parkland, at a park next to the school, mental health professionals will be deployed as will dogs meant to provide comfort. So will staff from a food programme for needy kids. An ecumenical religious service will be held.
In Coral Springs, the artist David Best will inaugurate a work called Temple of Time – a 11-meter high structure of plywood decorated with Asian images where people can go to pay homage to the victims of the shooting.
In mid-May the structure will be burned down.
Best began building such temples in 2000 at the Burning Man festival in Nevada to honour a friend who died in a motorcycle accident.
Since then he has specialised in offering towns this tool of collective mourning.
“The Temple is meant to serve as an object of great beauty built out of tremendous loss,” the Coral Springs city hall wrote on its webpage.