The Broward County school district reportedly plans to tear down the freshman building at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were gunned down on Wednesday Feb 14th.
“Parents and students have resoundingly told me they can’t go back into that building regardless of what we do,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. This from the Business Insider Feb 16th edition.
Let’s think about this just a bit. It’s understandable that people have real and strong emotions based on the horrific tragedy that occurred. The people who died were known and loved, they were friends and schoolmates and teachers and students of those who were gunned down. I don’t blame them for not wanting to return to the buildings in which these events occurred.
I have a different perspective. I am not for the constant knee-jerk reaction to every event in our society, and that is what we do. Something happens and people immediately call for all kinds of actions, new legislations, or in this case tearing down a building. I don’t see that as an answer. It will assuage some students and parents in the near term. Students who were in those classrooms when Nicholas Cruz barraged them with gunfire, have every right to not want to return to those classrooms. The campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School can accommodate these students in other classrooms, or temporary classrooms can be brought in.
These students will move on to a new grade level in a few short months, and off to college in a few short years. We as a society, cannot tear down everywhere there is an active shooter incident, a terrorist incident, a homicide of any type. This is a knee jerk, and fiscally irresponsible reaction. We have many places in the world, in our country, in our cities where tragedies occur. Envision Rome and the coliseum where thousands were killed. Envision the Auschwitz concentration camp and the other prison camps, where tens of thousands were exterminated. Envision the Pentagon, where on 9/11, 184 lives were lost. Today these are places that stand to remind us “never again”. I have been to these places, and I could still feel the people whose lives were lost, and it meant something to me. Those deaths could never have touched my soul in the same way if the places were gone.
We don’t honor the teachers and students who died in their school that they loved, by tearing it down. We don’t teach those who are left that life goes on despite the pain. We teach them to remain victims and make it go away as though it never happened. Rather we should teach them strength in the face of evil, and remembrance of the event and those that died, so that everyone who comes after more strongly understands, “never again”.
I would put a plaque in the floor at each place someone lost their life. I would build a memorial on the campus, not a huge garish one, but a simple yet elegant remembrance of the beautiful lives that were snuffed out that day. Every student should thereby know that if they ever hear a student expressing a wish to kill other students, they will speak it loud and clear and never let it stand.
As a parent, I understand the wish to protect the feelings of my children. But I would rather protect them physically. I do them no service in life by not allowing them to live through pain and come out the other side. Use the money that has been found to build a building and instead use it to secure that school and all of the future students. Tearing down the 9th grade building will solve nothing. It is a feel-good, we are doing something, we are erasing the bad memory, knee-jerk reaction. It will not bring the students and teachers back, and it does not honor their memory. We should not erase their legacy, their memory or the hallowed ground they died on so that people can feel more “comfortable”. The population of the school changes some 25% every single year and changes in its entirety every 4 years. These immediate intense feelings will fade each year, but with the building still standing, those who died there will be remembered along with the bigger lessons of facing life head on and refusing to live life as a victim, and students can forever remember to speak up in the face of evil and never cower from it, but meet it head on and defeat it. We need heroic courage in our world, and we need safer schools, but we do not need to tear down a building to comfort people, we need to feel the pain, we need to stand strong and remember, so that we can do better and so we can honor those who died.
These lives had meaning, please let us not erase the memory of their life and their death, so that generations to follow can honor them as they should be honored.