One year later after the shooting and I'm still MSD Strong!

The One-Year Anniversary Of The Worst Event Of My Life Is Almost Here

I am MSD Strong!

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Months by months, weeks by weeks, days by days, hours by hours, minutes by minutes, and seconds by seconds tick down to that dreadful date and I freeze up. I haven't wrapped my head around the time just yet and I know that when the final seconds pass me by, all I will feel is heartbreak all over again. Fear, pain, tears, and sadness is what will await me when February 14th finally arrives. I won't be getting chocolate or flowers and happiness. I'll just be reminded of a horrible event that flooded through my city like a storm.

The mass high school shooting that took place at the end of the school day, on a day that was supposed to be filled with love and joy, was destroyed when Nikolas Crus decided to change our lives forever. Right down the street my friends had fought, hid, and ran for their lives while I was at home watching the madness on the news.

I remember texting all my friends to find out if they were safe and ok and not receiving a text message back for hours. I remember seeing videos all over social media. I remember seeing my neighborhood on the news and it clicked in my head that the monster was finally detained right behind my house. I remember the sorrow that filled the air which lasted for months after the shooting. I remember attending friends' memorials and their funerals as if it was ok or normal for someone to be killed at such a young age. It isn't. I remember all the new threats going around surrounding schools, including my own. I remember feeling terrified by going to school and when I did, my classes were empty. I remember break down after break down that I had and the people around me had.

It was a terrible tragedy; which it was so much more than that, but words cannot place what we felt and experienced that day, and we will never be the same. And now with less than a week until the one-year anniversary, I still can't understand or believe the fact that it's been a whole year. That it has been a year without the 17 beautiful lives that were taken a lifetime too soon. Fathers, brothers, sisters, children are gone with only a squeeze of a finger.

How can it come to that?

A life that holds so much meaning, taken with such a small little object shot from a distance?

It baffles me that life is so short and we can't control it.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time when life was simpler, or when I was naïve to all the terror in the world and just live and be happy. To be with those who were lost, to remember them for who they are and not the horrifying event that's the reason for them being gone. So, in memory of them and to remember who they are as people, not statistics or numbers. Here are Parkland's 17 angels and they are real!

Nicholas Dworet, an insanely talented swimmer who was committed to his next four years at the University of Indianapolis. And loved to listen to Aerosmith and the Beatles. My friend.

Peter Wang, a JROTC student who was always super kind to anyone, even if you were a stranger.

Scott Beigel, an amazing teacher and Cross-Country Coach whose passion was running and coaching his students to be the very best that they can be.

Alex Schachter, a boy who loved band and dreamed of playing for the University of Connecticut and always wore the same UConn hoddie.

Jaime Guttenberg, an incredible dancer who brought tears to your eyes just by watching her dance.

Luke Hoyer, a boy who loved to play basketball and never stopped playing and also never stopped eating chicken nuggets.

Aaron Feis, a big teddy bear! He loved everyone and was always there for the students. His newborn daughter should be one right about now.

Alyssa Alhdadeff, a skilled soccer player who you could always find at the beach because it was her second home.

Gina Montalto, an amazing performer for the school's Winter Guard and threw that flag with grace.

Martin Duque-Anguiano, a boy with a great sense of humor and was a big nerd for Star Wars!

Alaina Petty, a JROTC student who was following her brother's footsteps and had an extremely bright personality.

Helena Ramsay, an intelligent girl who loved to travel and was obsessed with K-Pop music!

Chris Hixon, the athletic director who loved all sports and supported every single team and cheered them on, on the sidelines.

Joaquin "Guac" Oliver, a boy who loved soccer, his family and friends and just became a U.S. Citizen.

Cara Loughran, a talented Irish dancer who loved the beach and her life was filled with so much beauty!

Carmen Schentrup, a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist, she was crazy smart and loved playing the piano.

Meadow Pollack, a brave and courageous girl who was super kind and was planning to become a lawyer at Lynn University.

Looking through this list, I am reminded that even though February 14this a horrible memory for what happened, I should celebrate the lives these wonderful people lived. They deserve extended happiness and that's what I'll strive for next week.

This should never happen to anyone else.

I am MSD Strong and I stand tall!

Thank you for reading my story and look out for my next story coming soon.

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To The Girl Who Wears My Jersey

Now that you wear my jersey, here's what I'd like to tell you.
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To the girl who wears my jersey,

As an athlete, a jersey and number is more than just something you wear during a game. It means something more to an athlete.

One of the saddest parts of an athlete's career is when they have to give that jersey up for someone else to wear when they move on in life. After sitting in a box for a couple months after graduation, another athlete comes along and takes the jersey as their own. So, here's some things I would like to say to the girl that is wearing my jersey.

I hope you are working hard at the game. I hope that you are putting in extra hours when practice is over, and going 110% doing whatever you are doing. Enjoy the time you have now because soon it will be gone. It goes by in the blink of an eye and before you know it you will leaving your jersey behind just like I did, so cherish every moment. When I wore that jersey, I thought that the games and practices would never end until it got close to the end.

That jersey you're wearing has been through everything. It's gone through winning streaks, heartbreaking losses, comebacks, and blowouts. It's full of memories that I made with my teammates for years. There were the long bus rides or the pre-game traditions. There were the times we went out to eat and I got food on it, and times where it held my tears after a tough loss. That jersey you have has literally been with me through blood, sweat, and tears. It's seen all of the hard work I have put in on the field or court. I met so many different and amazing people in that jersey. I've played for coaches that have showed me perspectives of the game that I never saw before. I traveled to small towns, big cities, beaches, and other places I never thought I would see. It's an exciting time when you have that jersey on. You will meet new people, learn new things, and travel to places you never thought you would go before.

The jersey you are wearing means something to me, because I picked it for a reason and wore it for so many years. I picked the number on the jersey because it has a story, like every athlete's number does. The story can be as simple as it was picked for me and grew on me, or it could be your role model wore that number, so you chose it too. Another story could be that a family member wore it so you carried on the tradition. Whatever the story was, it's your turn to add your story to the jersey.

Be legendary. The truth is sometimes when someone thinks about that jersey you're wearing they'll think of the people that wore it before you. They think of the way the ones before you played, but that's all going to change. You are going to be added to the legacy and tradition. It's time for you to make your own legacy and name for yourself. It's about making people think that whoever wears the number next will be as great as the one before. Play to the best of your ability and work hard every day to be better than the next girl. Play with heart, be humble, and don't disrespect the tradition, team, or organization you are a part of.

Finally, play for someone other than yourself. Play for the name on the front of your jersey more than the one on the back. Play for everyone who got you to the point you are at now. Play for the ones who don't have the opportunity to play the game you love. Play for the little girl who watches you. Play for all the ones who wore the jersey before you.

Above all else, be your own player, create a name for yourself, and be humble.


Cover Image Credit: Caroline Showalter

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With More Lost To Mass Shootings Every Week, When Will It Finally End?

The tragedy never stops.

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There are three more people dead this week, lost to the pandemic of mass shootings and domestic terrorism.

Jeremy Richman, 49 years old. Sydney Aiello, 19. Calvin Desir, 16.

What mass shooting? I can hear you asking. When? Why I haven't I heard about it?

You probably did hear about it.

We lost Jeremy Richman to the Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012. Both Sydney Aiello and Calvin Desir, to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre on Valentine's Day of 2018. The first anniversary for the latter has just passed, while the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting was December 14th.

All three survived these shootings. All three took their own lives.

This is a painful reminder that death doesn't stop when the shooting has stopped.

Jeremy Richman lost his 6-year-old daughter, Avielle, in the Sandy Hook massacre of 2014. Afterward, he started his own foundation and told Anderson Cooper that he was simply doing his best to get out of bed every morning. He was a neuroscientist, who strove to understand why such violent behavior occurs in the first place. Of his daughter's death, he said," It's such a shock to the system, that you just feel displaced like the world is spinning and you are not and you are just going to get thrown off of it. We came to the idea that we were going to create a foundation in her honor." He strove for justice and reason in a world that took the most precious thing from him.

It has been six and a half years, but the trauma never leaves you. Even though Jeremy was apparently functioning in his day to day life, the recent autopsy confirmed his death a suicide.

Sydney Aiello recently graduated from high school. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as survivors guilt. On her twitter, she expressed empathy for people like Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain, who seemed cheerful before their suicides. She was going to go into the medical field, liked yoga, cheerleading, and brightening people's days, according to her family's Gofundme account. Her mother said that she was struggling in college, because classrooms now scared her, only reminding her of the incident. She lost her close friend, Meadow Pollack in the shooting. Meadow's brother, Hunter, tweeted his agony about losing Sydney as well. Her bright smile and bubbly personality will certainly be missed.

Within a week of Sydney's death, Calvin Desir, 16, killed himself. He too was described as a wonderful person, who wouldn't hurt a fly, described by his family as soft-spoken, selfless, and someone who would never hurt a fly. He enjoyed riding his bike, cooking, trying new recipes, and spending time with his sisters.

A year, six and a half years later, 10 years. The pain will never go away.

Experts say that in mass killings like these, "particularly in schools, where we expect to be safe, the incidence of PTSD afterward can be very high." Primarily because the location is one where students, faculty and parents alike expect safety to be found.

If nothing can or will be done to prevent tragedies like these, before they happen, put energy into giving the survivors proper mental health care. Especially as we face more and more people who will be dealing with the aftermath of such events. Remember the risk factors, anniversaries, illnesses, life transitions, birthdays, things that may make them feel guilty for living while others don't.

Memorize the signs of survivors guilt, PTSD and of suicide. If you can, donate money to a research or prevention fund, like those that can be found here.

Most importantly, remember to be kind and warm, like the three we lost were. Make the world a kinder place than the one they left.

Sydney, Jeremy, and Calvin will be missed dearly, by both those who knew them and those who didn't. Rest in peace.

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