Parkland School Shooting Site to Be Torn Down

Parkland School Shooting Site to Be Torn Down

Six years after a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school in one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, the site of the attack is being torn down.

The demolition of the former freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was scheduled to begin on Friday and was expected to take a few weeks to complete, Broward County school district officials said in a statement. Rather than using explosives, workers plan to tear down the three-story building piece by piece, officials said, starting with the top floor.

Officials had originally planned to start taking down the building on Thursday, but flooding and severe weather across South Florida delayed the start of work.

Lori Alhadeff lost her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, in the shooting. Her 17-year-old son now attends Stoneman Douglas High, and Ms. Alhadeff says she has long been ready to see the former freshman building come down.

“It’s important for that building to be taken down, so not only can I start to heal but also the community at large,” said Ms. Alhadeff, now chair of the Broward County School Board. “That building is a reminder of the horrific tragedy where 17 people were murdered in school.”

The goal is for the demolition to be finished before school starts in August, Ms. Alhadeff said.

Fourteen students and three faculty members were killed, and 17 others were wounded, in the rampage on Feb. 14, 2018, which shook the suburban community of Parkland and the nation. The 19-year-old gunman, Nikolas Cruz, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, and he was sentenced in 2022 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The shooting turned many of the victims’ relatives and classmates into activists. Parents founded organizations to lobby for school safety measures around the country. Some students at the school founded March for Our Lives to advocate gun-control measures.

Through it all, the freshman building remained standing, fenced off from the rest of the campus. The sites of school shootings are often soon demolished, or are cleaned and reopened, but the Stoneman Douglas High building was preserved as a crime scene because the gunman was put on trial to determine his sentence — a rarity, since most school shooters do not survive.

The building remained mostly untouched for years, as law enforcement officials investigated, prosecutors built their case against the gunman, and politicians visited the site. Blood stains and broken glass stayed on the floors. Students’ computers and class work sat on desks. Flowers and balloons were reminders that the rampage happened on Valentine’s Day.

In 2022, jurors walked through the building as they prepared to decide what sentence to recommend for Mr. Cruz. The next year, ballistics experts re-enacted the massacre to gather evidence for possible use in a civil trial against a former sheriff’s deputy who was accused by victims’ families of failing to protect students and teachers.

The deputy, Scot Peterson, was found not guilty of child neglect and other charges in a separate criminal trial.

Relatives of the victims were able to visit the site, too. Max Schachter, who lost his 14-year-old son, Alex, in the attack, walked through the building for the first time in 2023 and has been back a number of times since then. He said he was glad the building was preserved, so that as many officials as possible could see the devastation. Vice President Kamala Harris toured the building this year, as did the education secretary, Miguel Cardona.

“I know that lives were saved and schools were safer because of the hundreds of officials that were brought to that building,” Mr. Schachter said.

For Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter, Gina, was killed in the shooting, the demolition of the building brings conflicting emotions. His son worries that the community will forget what happened; his wife found meaning in showing officials the building and explaining to them what went wrong.

The couple has visited the site many times. On their final walk-through this spring, they spotted something they had never noticed before in a Spanish classroom: a poster that Gina had made about her family, still taped to the bulletin board.

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