February 14, 2018. A day that was supposed to be filled with such love and happiness now means something completely different.

At 2:30, I was on the phone with my best friend from high school. We were catching up when suddenly she gets a text from her mom: "Turn on the TV now." She puts me on speaker and turns up the volume. We both listen in horror and complete disbelief, instantly bursting into tears. Our high school, our home, was now the site of our country's latest mass shooting.

It's still hard to believe and fully wrap my head around how something so horrific, so violent, could happen in our little town of Parkland, the so-called "safest city in the country." When my parents decided to move here 18 years ago, they did so because of how amazing the community is, and how close-knit and safe it is. It's hard to understand unless you're from here, but Parkland is a very small community. Everyone knows everybody; you grew up with each other and go through life side-by-side. This makes the entire tragedy even harder to process. This didn't hit close to home. It was home. Our entire community is grieving and trying to grasp what has happened. You see, no ever thought this could happen here, but it did.

From watching the news, hearing the students' and teachers' firsthand accounts of their terrifying experiences, and seeing the videos and pictures of students running out of the school with their hands up, my heart broke into a million pieces. I sat in those classrooms. Learned from those teachers. Walked through those halls. Made memories that will last a lifetime on that campus. And now those rooms, that building, they are the home to horrors that no person, let alone children, should ever have to witness.

Douglas was my home, and always will be. It was in those halls I found myself, my passions, my friends. Where I made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Where my teachers helped mold me into the person I am today. I will forever be grateful of the teachers I had throughout my time at Douglas. For the ones who showed me what it means to be kind. The ones who exemplified compassion. The ones who helped me find my love of writing. The ones who encouraged me to love myself.

Not a day goes by when I am not immensely grateful for my teachers and everyone at Douglas. There are not enough words to express my gratitude. Douglas creates leaders and shows its students how important it is to stand up for what we believe in and how to take advantage of every opportunity we have. The poise and elegance of those survivors has been absolutely amazing. Their wisdom is astonishing. Their strength is admirable. They are the future that Douglas prepares its students for. They are Eagles.

On that dreadful day, innocence was taken from those students, from our town. I am overcome with sadness that this place I cherish is now associated with such violence and evil. Those 17 families will never have their loved ones come home. Those 17 lives were so violently taken from us. Now, when people think of Douglas or Parkland, they'll think of the shooting. But this school and this town will not let evil win. Those 17 innocent people will not die in vain. We will fight for justice and change. We will make sure that never again will another community experience this pain, this devastation.

Every Eagle, past and present, will tell you about the quote we passed under as we left those red gates day after day, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Unfortunately, those 17 innocent lives will no longer be able to make that change this generation has begun to make. Those 17 innocent lives are no longer able to make that change that they deserved. But we will. We will live for them. We will make a difference for them. We will make sure our voices are heard for them. We will never forget or stop fighting until this never happens again.

That is why I am proud to be a Parklander. That is why I am and will forever be proud to be an Eagle.