Like bugs in amber: visiting Parkland, Florida

Chloe McCarthy ’18, Feature/Opinion Editor

It looked like any town in suburban Michigan, except with more palm trees. The people looked like your average suburban Americans, except with a somberness resting across their faces. The school looked like any high school in suburban Michigan, except with more flowers, crosses, and signs lining its fences. It was nine o’clock and the school day had not started yet, as Florida schools do not start until 9:15. Nice, right? Three girls who looked about 14 years old walked towards the crossguard at her station. The crossguard greeted the girls with a small, but welcoming, smile and a “good morning.” The girls returned the gesture and made their way across the street. The wind carried a gentle breeze through the twinkling sunlight. It looked like another gorgeous day in Parkland, Florida.

We all know what happened here just a couple months ago. We have all heard the news, the passionate arguments, and the outcry for change. But very few of us have seen this place in real life. To see that crossguard and those three girls say good morning to each other with such unspoken weight standing between them, a silent understanding that what happened that day will still be felt every waking moment from there on out, stuck in the air like bugs in amber.

Perhaps that is one of the worst parts of tragedy. Even after gaining the nation’s attention, passing some legislation, and conducting nationwide marches, what happened can not and will not ever be taken back. That pain will linger in between every interaction, even in something as small as a “good morning.” Yes, the world keeps spinning, and yes, over time it becomes easier to cope. But it will never be fully forgotten or taken back.

They are not kidding when they say it could happen anywhere.  There was not anything outwardly special about the city. They had strip malls, gas stations, developed neighborhoods, and a “Welcome to Parkland” stone greeting its visitors. Our spring break crew drove past countless towns on our car ride back from Miami. The only reason we made a stop in Parkland is because, well, it is Parkland. Everyone knows Parkland. But it could have happened in Palm Beach, Florida. Or Summerville, South Carolina. Or Marshalltown, Iowa. Or Mayville, Oregon. Or South Lyon, Michigan.

For the rest of the world, life goes on. The news coverage fades. A new tragedy captures the hearts of American households. But the people of Parkland do not have such luxury. They will return everyday to the place that became the setting of their worst nightmare. The past cannot be undone, but, for many, a glimmer of hope for a better future is all that can be clung to in a world of senseless violence and cyclical suffering.

Picture courtesy of NY Daily News

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