Stoneman Douglas Seniors Reflect on Healing From Trauma of Mass Shooting Amid Graduation

Fred Guttenberg (author of Find the Helpers)- and family- attend MSD’s graduation ceremony for what should’ve been his daughter’s graduation.

SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) – Pomp and circumstance have been overtaken by pain. Nine students who were killed during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would’ve graduated Tuesday.

Not only will this year’s graduating students remember those who are no longer with them, but those who lived through the tragedy as well. They worked through it over the last three years following the shooting, and they are now in a different club. They are now survivors.

Brooke Harrison got ready for prom like most high school seniors, looking for her shoes and calling her friends to let them know she was on her way. But high school for Brooke has been quite different.

“I was in the 1200 building where the shooting happened, and I was on the first floor, and we were in 1216,” Brooke said.

Brooke was a 14-year-old freshman at MSD when a former student carried out one of the worst high school shootings in American history.

“And Elena, Alyssa and Alex all died in my classroom, and eight people total were shot in my classroom, so everyone that was around me, like where I decided to try and hide, was either shot or killed,” Brooke said.

Moving forward after that was hard.

“Sophomore was probably the worst for me mental health-wise, because I was still just recovering from witnessing everything I had just witnessed, like, being in the building,” Brooke said.

Sophomore year was difficult for her classmate Lauren Hogg, too. Her family moved to D.C. shortly after the shooting.

“I liked school most of my life, and I hated school after the shooting,” Lauren said. “Being at Douglas was like being in hell. It feels like I’ve been in high school for 20 years. I tell people that all the time when they ask me about graduating.”

First, they had to live through the shooting, the trauma and then the coronavirus.

“It’s been awful, and also with everything else going on in the world, it’s just compounded our trauma, and the fact that we’re isolated just makes it even worse,” Lauren said.

Brooke spent her senior year at home. She only went to school once for an AP exam.

“She’s been in my house the entire time, so actually that’s been so good for me,” said Brooke’s mother Denise Harrison. “As much as, like, she missed out on so much, she was home safe.”

With this chapter closing, Denise can’t help but think of the other families, the students that didn’t make it out.

“I wish she didn’t have to go through all this. She could’ve been different, and these other families, their kids were taken from them, and they don’t get to see their kids grow up,” Denise said. “They all should’ve been able to graduate and go to college, have their first love and, you know, all the milestones, so it’s hard.”

“It does feel like closing a chapter on my life and moving on to a better one,” Brooke said.

A new chapter, renewed hope, a new beginning without forgetting what they’ve been through.

The family of Jamie Guttenberg will be at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Tuesday evening for what Jamie’s father Fred Guttenberg said should have been her graduation.

The graduation ceremony for MSD’s Class of 2021 begins at 7 p.m.

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Find The Helpers

What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope

Life changed forever on Valentine’s Day 2018. What was to be a family day celebrating love turned into a nightmare. Thirty-four people were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Jaime Guttenberg, a fourteen-year-old with a huge heart, was the second to last victim. That she and so many of her fellow students were struck down in cold blood galvanized many to action, including Jaime’s father Fred who has become an activist dedicated to passing common sense gun safety legislation.

Fred was already struggling with deep personal loss. Four months earlier his brother Michael died of 9/11 induced pancreatic cancer. He had been exposed to so much dust and chemicals at Ground Zero, the damage caught up with him. Michael battled heroically for nearly five years and then died at age fifty.

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