Hundreds gather to honor Parkland shooting victims

Image 1 of 8

More than two dozen vigils were held around the state Monday night, honoring the lives lost at last week's school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Parkland. Five of them were in the Bay Area, throughout Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties, sponsored by the Florida PTA.

Hundreds stood around a small stage at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park. They were students, parents, teachers, and people from around the community who were hurting and hoping that this would be the last time they had to do this.

"We can't imagine the fear felt when a teacher realizes that the commotion they are hearing isn't a drill," said Damaris Allen, Vice President of Areas and Regions for Hillsborough County PTA. "We can't imagine what happens to their pulse when a child first realizes that those strange pops in the hallway are the sound of gunshots."

Plant High School students read the 17 victims' names aloud. One of those young students, 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup, has family in Hillsborough County. Carmen would've turned 17 this week.

Her parents wrote a short story about her life to be read at the vigil. "Carmen was strong," Allen read. "As a student, she was quite literally a straight-A student and a National Merit Finalist. Carmen never learned this. Her award letter arrived the day after she died."

The Florida PTA sponsored these vigils across the state, with the message: #NoMore. It's a message they say is not meant to be political.

"We don't ever want to have another one of these again," Allen said. "We don't want these names to be read and then quickly forgotten. We don't want any other parent to deal with the unimaginable."

Neither do the students.

"A school should be safe place to go where you get your education," said Arianna Moss, a senior at Robinson High School. "We shouldn't be worried about someone walking into school with a gun."

"Everybody's heartbroken," said Jenna Anders, a Robinson High School senior. "It really affects everybody and we just want those families and all the kids and everyone to know we have our hearts for them and all our hearts are for them. We just hope that this world gets better."

Wednesday, the Florida PTA will join lawmakers and other groups in Tallahassee for the "Rally in Tally to Support Gun Safety Reforms."

They'll be joined by students from Broward County, representing classmates who were killed in the Parkland shooting, as well as few students that we met at the Tampa rally Monday night.