Remembrance vigil held in Tampa one year after Parkland shooting

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One year after the horrific massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, dozens of people, including a Parkland survivor, came together in Tampa to remember those who lost their lives that day.

Susana Matta was a junior at Stoneman Douglas when the shooting happened, and now she attends a Hillsborough County school. She said it’s been an incredibly difficult year for her, reliving the trauma of the day and losing people she knew one year ago Thursday.

“Thinking back to our last period, our last class [was] when the fire alarm went off and we all just went running from our classrooms. Then the multiple shots were fired, we all scattered,” said Matta.

More than 30 students gathered outside Tampa’s city hall to decorate paper bag lanterns with the 17 victims’ names from the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. Parents, city leaders and other community members joined them during a candlelight vigil for the victims.

“Seeing all of these people here, seeing all of these people feeling what we’re feeling, it feels good to know that they care, too,” said Matta.

The students behind the vigil are all part of March for Our Lives, a student-led organization for stronger gun control.

“We’re the ones going to school. We’re the ones dealing with this sort of gun violence in our schools, dealing with the lockdowns and drills every week,” said Christopher Zoeller, a junior at River Ridge High School.

With candles lit and heads bowed, they reflect.

“I lost one close friend, Martin. Martin Duque [Anguiano],” said Matta.

They cried and they spoke up.

“I want change to happen. I want to make sure that no student ever has to be scared to go to school,” said Eternity Rodriguez, a junior at F.W. Springstead High School. “There were times after that shooting happened that there were threats at my school, and I was afraid to go to school.”

“I live every day going to school reliving that moment as I walk through the hallways, but we have to take all of this anger, all of this sadness and build it up inside of us and use it as fuel for our fight,” said Matta.

During the vigil, organizers held a 17-second moment of silence for the Parkland victims and another moment of silence for more than a minute for all victims of gun violence.