Family and friends in Parkland will hold their loved ones closer to their hearts this Valentine's Day. Feb. 14 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) shooting.
As the first anniversary of the devastating event approaches, freshman and survivor of the shooting, Cassidy Herz, is coordinating a vigil to remember the victims.
The vigil will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. outside of the Delta Gamma house in Greek Village.
“It’s really important to know about this event because if you know about this event or if you know about the shooting happening, then history won’t repeat itself and I feel like that’s a really crucial thing,” Herz said.
Herz said the day of the mass shooting was supposed to be filled with love, but was instead turned into loss and heartbreak.
“I heard four gunshots when I was evacuated outside,” Herz said, without wanting to go too much into detail of the event.
She said the experience lasted a while.
“…My whole class ran inside and had to sit against the wall for about 45 minutes in silence,” Herz said.
Herz said she is hoping to share her experiences of that day a year ago.
“There are so many USF students here that are graduates from my high school … (the shooting) is such an important event that has happened in my life that I want to share with the USF community,” Herz said.
According to Danielle McDonald, the dean of students, there are currently 104 students enrolled in the USF system that are alumni of MSD. Twenty-one of those students are enrolled as freshmen at the Tampa campus.
The Dean of Students office is also planning a time for remembrance Thursday.
“USF recognizes that the anniversary of the Parkland shooting tragedy is a difficult time for our community,” a post on the Dean of Students Facebook page read. “Many in our community are survivors, friends or family of victims, or otherwise impacted.”
According to the post, there will be time for members of the USF community to reflect on and remember the events of the Parkland shooting Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in MLK Plaza.
The Counseling Center will also host an “Open Discussion” for MSD graduates Thursday in MSC room 1306B from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., according to the post.
Herz said she believes that hosting a remembrance ceremony in honor of the victims will foster a growing awareness of tragic social issues similar to the MSD shooting.
“I want (USF students) to be aware of social events,” Herz said. “Just because stuff doesn’t happen in their own backyard, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be aware of stuff happening everywhere else.”
Once the sun sets, Herz said she hopes that others will join her in placing candles, flowers and other objects in memory of the victims.
There will be 17 different candles, each designated to an individual victim, that will hold a photograph of the victim. To eliminate any sort of political discussion, there will be no official speeches.
Herz highlighted her main goal, which is spreading awareness.
“Awareness is the most important aspect of this event and I want people to just be there for one another,” Herz said.
Additional reporting by Jesse Stokes