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Demolition begins at the site of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida

video caption, Demolition is expected to take several weeks

  • Author, Bernd Debusmann Jr
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

The school building in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman murdered 17 people six years ago, is being demolished, causing mixed emotions for still-grieving parents.

Demolition began Friday morning, with some of the victims’ family members watching from afar.

The February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

The perpetrator was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2022.

Authorities, if they so choose, invited families of students killed in the massacre to watch the first strikes on the building.

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa died, told CBS, the BBC’s American affiliate, that she wanted the building gone.

“This is the next step in the healing process for me and my family,” she said. “My son still goes to school there and has to walk past the building where his sister died.”

Like Ms. Alhadeff, Jackson Meaney, a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, believes demolishing the building is a “good thing.”

“Nobody really knows what will replace him,” Meaney said. “It might be interesting to see what they do about it. But (demolition is) a good thing.”

Other parents, however, expressed hope that the building would remain to honor the memory of the students who lost their lives.

They include Gena and Thomas Hoyer, who lost their son Luke in the shooting.

“For me, the problem with this building is that it is the last place Luke lived,” Ms. Hoyer said. “It’s hard for me to think that the building is falling down.”

However, she admitted that she understands the Parkland community and that some families “need closure.”

“I don’t need this to bring closure, there will never be closure, but I understand the community’s feelings,” she said.

Local officials in Broward County, Florida, have not yet decided who will take the building’s place.

Previously, school principals suggested installing a playing field for the school orchestra or the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) there, along with a path to a temporary monument that was erected several years ago.

Some of the students killed in the shooting were members of the school’s JROTC team.

Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died that day, said he would like to see a permanent memorial replace the current one.

“We are part of the community too,” he told CBS.

Montalto admits, however, that demolishing the building involves “a lot of conflicting emotions.”

“My son is afraid that people will now forget that the building is being torn down,” he said.

“My wife said she had kind of become attached to this place after we had passed through it so many times with different leaders and decision makers.”

The gunman who carried out the shooting, Nikolas Cruz, was sentenced in November 2022 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A month earlier, a Florida jury had voted to spare him the death penalty, sparking outrage among the victims’ relatives.