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Demolition underway of Parkland school building where 17 died in mass shooting

Demolition underway at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School years after Parkland massacre
Demolition underway at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School years after Parkland massacre 02:12

FORT LAUDERDALE - Demolition of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 people died in the 2018 mass shooting is underway.

The start of the demolition was delayed one day due to rain. On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency in Broward, and several other counties.

Due to the declaration, the Broward public school district was closed on Thursday, the same day that the demolition of the 1200 building was set to begin.

The families of some of those who died were there to watch the beginning of the demolition which will take a couple of weeks. They have differing views about the demolition.

"I want the building gone," said Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa died there.

"I just kept thinking about my daughter, Alyssa, who was murdered in that building, and the pain I go through every day, and my family," she said. 

Alhadeff was elected to the Broward County school board after the massacre and now serves as its chair.

"It's one more step in the healing process for me and my family. My son still goes to school there, and he has to walk past that building where his sister died," she said.

"Today, of course, is a very difficult day. A lot of conflicting emotions as we watch this building being torn down. My beautiful daughter Gina was of course shot here," said Tony Montalto.

"When Gina was growing up, High School Musical was all the rage. And we would drive down this road and she would point to that building many times and say, 'Look, Daddy, there's my High School Musical." I always hear her voice when we drive down this road."    

Gina was one of the 17 who died. Montalto said he had mixed feelings about the building coming down.

"I know from my family every day we miss Gina, every day without her there's a giant hole in our hearts," he said 

"My son is concerned that people will forget now that the building is being taken down. My wife said she had kind of grown attached to the space as we walked through it so many times with different leaders and policymakers. As for me, I'm concerned because we haven't seen a solid plan yet for what's going to replace this building," he said.

While that building brings pain to so many, it also serves a purpose that has remained intact for so long. Lawmakers and powerful people toured the horrific scene — many times led by family members. 

"I've been through that building over 10 times. And every time it's excruciatingly painful to see Alex's blood all over the chair. And to see how he died, Alex didn't have a chance," said Max Schachter

Max Schachter's son Alex was murdered here.  Max brought more than 500 people through the building.  He wishes it could have been more. But he knows it made a difference. 

"When I brought people through that building, it changed their lives, and they never will forget walking through the site of the Parkland School shooting. And everybody that came out of that building was rejuvenated and focused to make sure that this never happens again," he said. 

Eric Garner is a teacher at MSD. He was here that awful day. He's ready for the 1200 building to be gone, no longer casting its ugly shadow on campus. 

"We've been looking at this monument to mass murder for six and a half years and it's time to go. It needs to be off campus," he said.

Gena and Thomas Hoyer, who lost their son Luke that day, say they also have mixed feelings about the demolition.

"For me, the trouble with the building is it's the last place where Luke was alive. It's where he was having fun, being a 15-year-old, and you know, knowing that that is where he was last, it's hard for me thinking that the building is coming down. The building is not what murdered Luke, I don't hate the building, but I understand the community and how it triggers them, they need this for closure. I don't need it for closure for me, there will never be closure, but I do understand the feelings of the community," said Gena Hoyer. 

Thomas Hoyer said they've spoken to some of the other families about the demolition.

"There's mixed feelings amongst the families. There are families that have pretty hard feelings about that place and there are other families that feel like us that feel like it's a pretty sad and solemn place that looks like a tomb, a memorial, it's like sacred ground to us. So 17 families, a lot of different emotions," he said. 

The Hoyers say whatever replaces the building should be something the school can use, but it also has to honor the 17 people who died.

Opinions differ on demolition of Parkland school massacre site 02:56

Over the last year, some of the parents of those who died have led Vice President Kamala Harris, members of Congress, school officials, police officers, and about 500 other invitees from around the country on tours of it. They demonstrated how improved safety measures like bullet-resistant glass in door windows, a better alarm system, and doors that lock from the inside could have saved lives.

Those who have taken the tour called it gut-wrenching and something of a time capsule of Feb. 14, 2018, with bullet-pocked walls and bloodstained floors. Textbooks and laptops sat open on desks, and wilted Valentine's Day flowers, deflated balloons, and abandoned teddy bears were scattered amid broken glass. Those objects were removed before the start of the demolition. 

The Broward school board has not decided what the building will be replaced with. Teachers suggested a practice field for the band, Junior ROTC, and other groups, connected by a landscaped pathway to a nearby memorial that was erected a few years ago. Several of the students killed belonged to the band or JROTC.

Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting, would like to see a memorial take over the space, replacing the earlier one, which he said was supposed to be temporary.

"We are part of the community, too," he said.

Some parents want the site turned into a memorial.  

The plan is to have the building completely demolished in the next few weeks and then have everything gone off campus, by the time the students come back in the fall.   

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