A bipartisan group of nine Congressional members embarked on a poignant visit to the site of the tragic 2018 Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Led by Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), the delegation stepped foot in the school, where 14 students and three staff members lost their lives. Coinciding with this emotional visit was a ballistic reenactment, initiated by the victims’ families’ lawsuit against the Broward Sheriff’s Office and former Deputy Scot Peterson, accusing them of failing to protect the victims.
Locked away as evidence for the penalty trial of gunman Nikolas Cruz, the three-story building still bore the scars of grief and devastation. The delegation was shown the door through which Cruz had gained entry to the school that fateful day. For an hour and 40 minutes, they meticulously retraced Cruz’s path during the harrowing six-minute attack.
In a rare permission granted to media outlets, including the Associated Press (AP), five organizations were welcomed into the building after the jury had tread the same solemn ground. Amidst the disarray, remnants of the tragedy were evident – shattered glass on the floor, deflated balloons, withered roses, and abandoned textbooks and laptops on students’ desks.
The visit, the first of its kind by a Congressional delegation, was suggested by Max Schachter, a bereaved father who lost his 14-year-old son in the shooting. Joining them were six Democrats and three Republicans from the House School Safety and Security Caucus. Following the visit, the delegation engaged in a safety roundtable discussion with families affected by the tragedy.
Rep. Moskowitz, a vocal advocate for stricter gun laws since the Valentine’s Day shooting, underlined the urgent need for preventive measures. While acknowledging that this visit alone wouldn’t immediately generate policy solutions, he emphasized the necessity to prevent more families from enduring the heart-wrenching pain of joining an exclusive club no one wishes to be a part of.
Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing lawsuit, ballistic experts conducted a realistic reenactment of the horrifying incident. Using an identical AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, they fired up to 139 shots, aiming to recreate the soundscapes that Peterson had encountered. Peterson, who had claimed difficulty in locating the shooter due to echoes and impeding sounds, sought refuge in a neighboring building for 40 minutes with his weapon drawn. In a separate criminal trial during June, he faced charges related to his actions on that fateful day.
As the reenactment carried on throughout the day, the dedication of the Congressional delegation, victims’ families, and the justice system remained resolute. This deeply moving and symbolic visit, combined with the ongoing legal battles, highlights the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to ensure that no more innocent lives are lost in senseless acts of violence.