Seventeen electronic candles flickered in the wind Tuesday night. The Florida Gulf Coast University choir sang songs of peace and resilience.
The candles represented hope, strength and the lives lost last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Hundreds of Florida Gulf Coast University students gathered onto the library lawn to honor the victims from Parkland. Ninety-one Stoneman Douglas alumni currently attend FGCU and some graduated only a year ago.
Through broken voices and tear-stained faces, a handful of them spoke out about gun violence and shared their high school memories.
“It’s crazy to think that Parkland, Florida was on the news that day,” Alyssa Rocha said. “I couldn’t believe my eyes and to this day I still can’t believe it. What happened that day, there are no words. It shouldn’t be happening, and it shouldn’t have happened.”
Mikayla Silva graduated in 2016. On Valentines Day, she lost seven people she knew.
“Going to Douglas shaped who I am today,” she said. “That day, the day that was supposed to be filled with love got torn away in one day.”
“They’re not going home. They’re not going to see their family. Those kids, they had a bright future,” Silva said. “To know that they’re not going to achieve their goals—it breaks my heart.”
Farah Alkhadra went home to Parkland over the weekend to attend a vigil.
“I would say the most groundbreaking thing I felt,” she said. “Was walking around with a bouquet of flowers—a dozen—and it wasn’t enough for all the victims.”
According to a WGCU article, the vigil was planned days earlier, but was announced hours after the Florida legislature voted down a motion to consider a ban on certain assault weapons, like the one used during the Parkland shooting.
Despite the setbacks on gun control, one thing is certain: The students from Parkland are not going to back down.
There’s a sign at the front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas that says to, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“And that’s what we’re going to be,” Silva said.