PARKLAND, Fla. — Just 24 hours after a shooting that turned this city numb, Lori Alhadeff stood near 17 cream-colored angels with gold wings that lined the park stage where a vigil was held Thursday night. One of those angels represented her daughter, Alyssa, 14, who was killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Trembling, she said she was there for her daughter, and she was there to talk to anyone who would listen. “My daughter is dead, but all these children out here have to go to school. A shooter should not be able to just walk in,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “I hope she didn’t die for nothing.”
All around this stricken community, residents were honoring the 17 victims, supporting the survivors, some of them still in hospital beds, and trying to make sense of a tragedy that had no logic.
Among the grieving were broad-shouldered football players, who lost teammates, a popular assistant coach and the school’s athletic director. As the sun set, they formed a circle and locked hands with former players, praying for those who would never play again.
They spoke of their dead coach, Aaron Feis, 37, who was also the school security guard and would greet students at the gate each morning, sitting in his golf cart with a thumbs-up and a smile.
“He cared about us as people, not just as football players,” said William Pringle, 17, who had just escaped the school with a friend when they learned that their beloved coach had not.
Tyler Goodman, 18, the quarterback, had seen the coach just before the shooting.
“I love you coach,” Mr. Goodman recalls saying. It was Valentine’s Day, after all.
“I love you, too, Bub,” Mr. Feis replied. “I’ll see you at 2:30.”
It was the last Mr. Goodman ever saw of him.
During the horror, Carly Novell, a 17-year-old senior who writes for the school’s quarterly magazine, The Eagle Eye, hid in a closet and thought about an awful family tragedy from before she was born. Her grandfather had told her about how he had survived a mass shooting in 1949 in Camden, N.J. His family had not made it.
“My grandfather was 12, and his grandma and his mom and dad were killed while he hid in a closet,” Carly said. “They heard gunshots on the street, so my great-grandma told my grandpa to hide in the closet, so he was safe. But he didn’t have a family after that.”
Interviewed on Thursday, she said: “I was thinking of him while I was in the closet. I was wondering what he felt like while he was there. My mom has told me he was in shock after it, too — that he didn’t remember how he got to the police station, or anything like that. I didn’t forget anything, but I was in shock and I didn’t understand what was going on.”
She was not the only one struggling to make sense of the shooting rampage, which the authorities say was carried out by a former student, Nikolas Cruz, who appeared to have an obsession with guns.
Huddled elsewhere in the school as Mr. Cruz stalked the hallways was David Hogg, 17, a lanky senior and aspiring journalist. His reportorial instincts kicked in as he turned on the video recorder on his phone and pointed it at classmates hiding with him in a dark classroom.
“So, what’s your message?” he asked.
One after another, his classmates responded. “I personally have rallied for gun rights,” said one female student, her voice shaky, but forceful. “I wanted to be a junior N.R.A. member, I wanted to learn how to hunt,” she said. “But to have the bullet pointed at me, my school, my classmates, my teachers, my mentors, it’s definitely eye-opening to the fact that we need more gun control in our country.”
The gunman was still at large, and yet those in hiding kept trying to make sense of it all.
“If you looked around this closet and saw everyone just hiding together, you would know that this shouldn’t be happening any more,” said another female student, her eyes wide and fear visible on her face.
Interviewed later, Mr. Hogg offered remarks that captured the sentiments of many of his classmates.
“On a national scale, I’m not surprised at all,” he said. “And that’s just sad. The fact that a student is not surprised that there was another mass shooting — but this time it was at his school — says so much about the current state that our country is in, and how much has to be done.”
The violence must stop, he said, issuing a call for lawmakers to take action.
“We need to do something. We need to get out there and be politically active,” he said. “Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children’s lives.”
Expressing his frustration on CNN, he said: “We’re children. You guys are the adults.”
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