PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Resuming classes two weeks after a mass shooting at a Florida high school has been a traumatic adjustment for some parents of children who survived the tragedy.
Melissa Broccoli and Christine Dunhill were shaking as they reunited Thursday at their usual pick-up spot outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They had not seen each other since Feb. 14, when they believe Nikolas Cruz drove past them in an Uber onto campus, where he fatally shot 17 people.
“You re-live everything when you come back here and you have to park in the same spots,” Broccoli said.
She has three children who attend the school, and Dunhill has one. Expecting to see their children at the usual dismissal time on Feb. 14, they instead encountered a sheriff’s deputy yelling at them to stay in their cars.
Dunhill said it was not a comfort to return to the same spot and resume their routine because everything had changed, especially for the families of the 14 students killed in the shooting.
“I am messed up. I’m broken,” Dunhill said.
The women said they had felt helpless during the shooting, and they were trying to be strong for their children.
“I think they are more courageous and strong than the parents are. I mean, they walked back into that building,” Broccoli said.
Meanwhile, the father and brother of a 14-year-old girl killed at the school pushed Florida lawmakers to pass Gov. Rick Scott’s proposals for school safety.
“This time must be the last time. We can make it the last time if we don’t get mired down in the politics,” said Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting.
There are several significant differences between Scott’s proposal and House and Senate bills.
Scott wants to put more sheriff’s deputies in schools — at least one in every school and one for every thousand students who attend a school. House and Senate bills would create a program that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms if they undergo law enforcement training and are deputized, and if the school district agrees to arm teachers. Scott opposed that idea.
Scott’s plan goes significantly further in preventing people who show signs of violent behavior or mental illnesses to obtain or keep guns.
While many families and students from Parkland want an assault-rifle ban or a ban on large capacity magazines, Petty said that language could prevent any bill from passing.
“If this devolves into a gun control debate, we’re going to miss our opportunity to get something done,” he told reporters after addressing lawmakers.
The legislative proposals and the governor’s proposals all agree on some gun restrictions, including raising the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and to create a waiting period for rifle sales.
The House and Senate are trying to work out differences in their proposals and expect they will take full-chamber votes next week, at the end of the annual 60-day legislative session.
A 15-year-old survivor of the shooting is seeking a potential share of any inheritance Cruz may get from his deceased mother. Attorney Alex Arreaza said Anthony Borges, who was shot five times and faces enormous medical bills, plans to file a lawsuit and wants standing as a creditor in the Cruz inheritance case.
It’s not clear how much money is available. Cruz’s mother died in November; his father died in 2004. Family friend Rocxanne Deschamps seeks to become administrator of the estate for 19-year-old Cruz and his younger brother, Zachary. Cruz lived with Deschamps briefly after his mother died.
Zachary Cruz blamed himself for the school shooting, according to a Feb. 16 report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. He told detectives he and his friends had bullied Nikolas when they were younger, “which he now regrets ever doing,” the report said. “Zachary wishes that he had been ‘nicer’ to his brother.”
Detectives noted that Zachary Cruz was living in Deschamps’ care and had expressed suicidal thoughts to her after learning about what his brother had done.
Associated Press writers Curt Anderson in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.
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