Students at a Florida high school where 17 of their classmates and staff members were killed returned Sunday to gather their belongings thrown down in panic during the school shooting nearly two weeks ago.
Thousands of students joined their parents in walking past the three-story building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the Feb. 14 massacre took place. It is now cordoned off by a chain link fence that was covered with banners from other schools showing their support.
“Just seeing the building was scary,” freshman Francesca Lozano said as she exited the school with her mom. Still, she was happy to see her friends. “That made it a lot better.”
Seventeen people dressed in white costumes as angels stood by a makeshift memorial outside the school before moving near the entrance. Organizer Terry Decarlo said the costumes are sent to mass shootings and disasters so the survivors “know angels are looking over them and protecting them.” Many of Sunday’s angels were survivors of the 2016 club shooting in Orlando where 49 people died, Decarlo said.
The school reopens Wednesday and administrators said families would get phone calls about details later. Sunday was a day to ease into the return.
“Two of my best friends aren’t here anymore,” said freshman Sammy Cooper, who picked up the book bag he had dropped as he saw the accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, begin shooting. “But I’m definitely going to school Wednesday. I will handle it.”
Junior Sebastian Pena said the gathering was a chance to see friends and his teachers, and to “come together as a family.”
Earlier Sunday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office said he had asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen to investigate the law enforcement response to the shooting. The agency confirmed it would start the investigation immediately.
The FBI has acknowledged that it failed to investigate the tip about Cruz that the agency received on Jan. 5.
The Associated Press obtained a transcript of the more than 13-minute phone call. During the call, the woman described a teenager prone to anger with the “mental capacity of a 12 to 14 year old” that deteriorated after his mother died last year. She pointed the FBI to several social media accounts where Cruz had posted photos of sliced-up animals and rifles and ammunition he apparently purchased with money from his mother’s life insurance policy.
“It’s alarming to see these pictures and know what he is capable of doing and what could happen,” the caller said. “He’s thrown out of all these schools because he would pick up a chair and just throw it at somebody, a teacher or a student, because he didn’t like the way they were talking to him.”