A fierce eagle surrounds the motto of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland: “Be positive. Be passionate. Be proud to be an Eagle.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a mass shooter cut down the lives of 17 Eagles. As of Friday morning, seven victims remained hospitalized. Four students are still at Broward Health Medical Center in fair condition. Broward Health North is treating one patient in critical condition and one in fair condition.
The greater Parkland community has been mourning together in vigils and finding solace in grief counseling centers.
“My baby’s going to need more counseling when he goes back to school,” says Judith Rock, who accompanied her son Trevor, a Stoneman student, to a counseling site in Broward. “Everybody’s going to need more counseling when they go back.”
Students who survived the tragedy are beginning to cope with the loss of their classmates. Amid the chaos, the common consensus is it couldn’t have happened at Stoneman Douglas. But it did.
Police investigators have interviewed more than 2,000 people as of Thursday night on 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student who confessed to the mass shooting, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
Cruz was most recently living with a family friend after his parents had died on separate occasions. He left behind a social media footprint, a trail of unseen signals, that showed a shooting was imminent.
The short-term responses from law enforcement and the community bring up a greater conversation that the rest of the country has been having. This week, Stoneman Douglas joined a list of American towns witnessing carnage in classrooms. This week, the proud, passionate Eagles suffered one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.
WLRN’s Tom Hudson is recapping the past 48 hours with WLRN reporters Jessica Bakeman, Peter Haden and Caitie Switalski. They are considering what the shooting means for schools, law enforcement and the politics of gun control.
WLRN: Let's talk about what the police know for certain happened. Walk us through the timeline that the police investigators have been able to piece together on Wednesday afternoon.
HADEN: The Uber car picked up the suspect at 2:06 p.m. The suspect was then dropped off at Stoneman Douglas High School at 2:19 p.m. At 2:21, he went into a stairwell in Building 12 — this is where most of the freshmen classes and freshman's activities take place at Stoneman Douglas. That's where he went with a rifle inside a black soft rifle case and also carrying a tote bag with a vest with additional magazines. He then took the rifle out of the case, readied it and put the vest with the magazines on him. He emerged from that staircase at 2:21 p.m. and that's when he began shooting students and faculty in the hallway in Building 12 and going into five different classrooms and shooting people there.
WLRN: The timeline that police have been able to put together here then picks up what about an hour an hour and 20 minutes later?
HADEN: That’s right. He then dashed out of this school. He dropped the gun, took off his vest and he fled across the tennis courts and over to a Walmart blending in with other students who were fleeing. He then went into the Wal-Mart into a Subway restaurant bought something to drink, sat down waited a little bit. Then he went to a nearby McDonald's hung out in there for 15 minutes or so and then left on foot.
He’s then encountered by a Coconut Creek police officer on a residential street in Coral Springs at approximately 3:41 p.m. That's about a little over an hour after the shooting.
WLRN: He made his first court appearance via video yesterday. Tell us about that.
HADEN: He went in front of a Broward County judge and was read the charges against him. No bond was issued and he's being held at Broward County Jail. [He faces] 17 counts of premeditated murder. That's one for each of the people he's accused of killing on Wednesday.
WLRN: Caitie and Jessica, what have you witnessed and heard from the community as it is trying to process?
SWITALSKI: A lot of parents are in disbelief. This community is not one that's used to this and it's very trivial, but it is something I heard parents say a lot yesterday at the grief counseling centers, you know, 'it happens everywhere else. It's supposed to happen other places.' So, I think as cliche as that can be it is what parents are thinking right now. I had a mom tell me she drove to work and she saw the kids first fire drill of the morning, the scheduled fire drill, and she thought to herself, 'wow, it's a very open campus. The kids are vulnerable' and she told me hours later that thought could not have spooked her more. And I saw the kids want to just stay together. The theme I've seen is whether it was at vigils yesterday or whether it is that the grief counseling centers, they don't want to leave their friends and their classmates.
WLRN: What are the services that are available?
BAKEMAN: The Broward County School District offered grief counseling services starting at 8 a.m. at several sites throughout the Parkland and Coral Springs communities and those red you know typical meeting spaces - a library, a rec center, a performing arts center. We were there pretty early and people were already pouring in. I think that they woke up that morning and the parents and students talked to each other and said we need some help processing this. You know, I talked to a mom who says she hopes that those services continue as school gets back going because this is obviously something that particular that the students who witnessed some of these acts are going to be dealing with for a very long time if not the rest of their lives.
SWITALSKI: It's one on one sessions and the district brought in grief counselors from other schools, from any resource that they could. So you walk in you, you meet a counselor [or] you can go sit with them with therapy dogs and talk about whatever you need to talk about.
WLRN: What is the calendar looking forward for school? School clearly and obviously was canceled over the last two days at Stoneman Douglas. But what is that neighborhood school's future?
BAKEMAN: Monday is a holiday, so I think the expectation is that schools are going to start back up on Tuesday. I did reach out to the school district today to confirm that and find out more about what kind of protocols are going to be in place, what kind of services are going to be available. I haven't gotten any response yet.
This post has been updated.