Healing Our Community

Parkland Strong

By Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine

Parkland is my home, my community, and where my wife and I have chosen to raise our family. The events of Wednesday, February 14th have hit home for me in ways I could never imagine. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is where our sons have graduated, and where our daughter and niece currently attend. Parkland’s athletic fields are where we go on a Friday night to watch the Eagles play, or Saturday morning for club soccer. This town and the people in it are special to me in so many ways. I began my public service career 15 years ago as a commissioner in Parkland, then had the honor to serve the City as mayor for 10 years, and now as the County Commissioner of District 3. Reflecting back to February 14th, I woke up on Valentine’s Day morning to a sweet note from my wife Stacey.  By that afternoon, our world had been shattered. We lost not only students, teachers, coaches and family friends, but even more so we lost a piece of ourselves.

I cannot fathom what it was like for my niece, her friends and teachers to be locked and barricaded in classrooms as the sounds of gunfire and terror echoed throughout the school. I cannot begin to wrap my mind around the football coaches and teachers laying their lives down to save others. My wife, who is the President of the PTA, and I knew all of these great kids, their parents, and the staff members.

In small towns like Parkland, where a high school is the focal point of learning and growing up, unspeakable tragedy has marred our community. We as a society must come together to demand action for those we have lost and for those who have survived. Anything else is unacceptable. In addition, we must demand that Congress enact an assault weapons ban that includes AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and further background checks. Any issue whatsoever that comes up in someone’s background should be investigated before they can obtain a gun. Children should not be afraid to go to school, nor should their parents be afraid to send them to school. In the past month and a half, and over the past two decades since Columbine, we have only witnessed inaction. As a society we can no longer tip toe around this epidemic of violence.

As such, for the immediate healing of our community I am calling for the following: No one should ever have to step foot in the building where Wednesday’s massacre took place. Today, I call on Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Senate, and the Florida House of Representatives to step up to the plate! Fund the initiative to tear down and replace the existing classroom building where the shooting occurred on February 14th, 2018. All administrators and teachers, together with current and future students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should not be forced to relive this tragedy every day.  No child or staff member should ever have to step foot into that building. PERIOD. In addition, funds for a memorial should be appropriated in memory of those who have perished. These members of our high school should never be forgotten, and the state should make all efforts to accomplish this expeditiously during this legislative session. I believe that this is necessary for the healing of our community.