Parkland School Building Being Demolished

Heavy equipment begins to tear down the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Friday. (Matias Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)

(Miami Herald/TNS) — Six years and four months after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, shook the nation, the demolition of the building where the tragedy unfolded began Friday.

Rather than a dramatic dynamite implosion or a wrecking ball striking the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the demolition will be mechanical. It will likely last for a few weeks and, according to a spokesman with the Broward County school district, it will cost $339,000.

Instead of a massive boom, all viewers could hear at 8:26 a.m., when the demolition officially started Friday, were the creaks and wrenches of a massive yellow excavator slowly punching into the corner window of the building’s third floor. Then the concrete slid off the wall and hit the ground.

Inside that freshman building on Feb. 14, 2018, a former student shot to death 17 people and injured 17 others. The building has remained as it was that day as the murder case proceeded in court.

On Friday, some of the family members of the dead and injured, as well as some school employees, students and elected officials chose to watch the demolition begin. For many, it was a long-awaited moment.

By 9 a.m., a large chunk of the building was already missing.

Dylan Persaud, a former Stoneman Douglas student, watched as the dust filled the air and small rocks tumbled down. He wore a burgundy and silver T-shirt from the school and said the demolition process helped his healing.

“It’s a slow process,” he said.

The 20-year-old graduated in 2021 and became a full-time mechanic and part-time chef. The day of the shooting — a day he said he thinks about often — he was in the 1100 building. His teacher and classmates initially thought the popping sounds were firecrackers, but they eventually realized they were shots being fired.

He knew seven of the 17 deceased, including Scott Beigel, his teacher.

He filmed the demolition Friday and sent it to some of his friends who couldn’t attend. The process, which he had looked forward to for years, gave him a sense of resolution, he said.

“This is the end to the story, the period at the end of it. This is it,” he said. “But you can never forget something like this.”

Joanne Wallace, a former special education teacher at Stoneman Douglas, arrived at about 7:45 a.m. and sat on a pink camping chair on the sidewalk in front of the campus off Pine Island Road.

She chose to watch the demolition from afar because she still fears crowds.

“I still have a little bit of PTSD,” Wallace said. She has worked at the Broward school district for about 20 years and spent seven of those at Stoneman Douglas, so she was at the school the day of the tragedy.

Last year, she moved to a role at the Equity, Diversity and School Climate Department, in part because of the painful history at Stoneman Douglas.

She said a part of her is happy the physical reminder of the shooting will be gone. She wants to keep remembering the 17 “as they lived and not think too much about the way they died.”

“I’m just here to get another piece of closure,” she said as rain drops dripped down her black umbrella, “and to honor … everybody that was lost.”

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