Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, may be more than 1,300 miles away from the South Fork of Long Island. But the presence of the victims of the February 14 mass shooting there was felt right here at home on Wednesday morning, when hundreds of students from Pierson Middle-High School, the Bridgehampton School and the Hayground School remembered them in the form of somber walk-outs or ceremonies.
“I didn’t want this to be political at all, or about the Second Amendment,” said Bridgehampton School student Jade Maldonado, who handed white origami cranes and burgundy ribbons to her peers during her school’s formal memorial event. “I want to carry the students with us and always remember them.”
With the flag flying at half-staff at Pierson Middle-High School Wednesday, more than 200 students streamed through the doors and gathered quietly in front of the school at 10 a.m., during fourth period classes, for exactly 17 minutes — a minute for each life lost in the shooting.
Pierson’s walkout was planned by the student council and Bridgehampton’s ceremony was planned by the student government with help from teachers Tom House and John Reilly. Students from Hayground School came over to Bridgehampton for the ceremony. Their efforts coincided with a national movement in which students from around the country simultaneously participated in similar walkouts and memorial events.
“I really felt like Florida was close to here,” Pierson student Carolyn McGuire said. “Also, my dad is a policeman, and it really touched me when I heard about [the walkout], and I knew a lot about it, so I knew it was really important.”
During Monday night’s Sag Harbor School Board of Education meeting, Principal Jeff Nichols said he would inform faculty and staff via a memo that they should not hold any testing or assessments during that time, and that students would not be penalized for participating in the walk-out.
“I feel like the kids that died should be recognized,” Pierson student Hudson Galardi-Troy said. “It’s just scary that they just go to school one day, and then they don’t come home.”
At Bridgehampton, middle and high school students, faculty members and community members gathered on the tennis courts at 10 a.m. and the names and short biographies of the 17 shooting victims and 17 officially wounded were read aloud.
“I think it was very nice that Bridgehampton made an effort to connect, even though the school is so far away from Florida,” said Bridgehampton student James Fairchild. “I thought the words from our teachers and students were very honorable, and I think they’ll make a difference.”
Bridgehampton principal Michael Miller said coming together as a school family will help keep everyone strong.
“The most authentic and genuine concept about us is our capacity to overcome, our capacity to endure, our capacity to love and to be greater than our suffering,” he said. “Even more important is our capacity to transform. This is what makes us strong. Coming together as one family, one unit, leaning on the family members at your side. Today is not about political stances, not about any injustices you feel have transpired. Today is about honoring and celebrating 17 lives that were cut short. We want to ensure they are always remembered.”
A tree seedling, cultivated from the “survivor tree” that was found standing in the rubble after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has been donated by John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens, to be planted on the Bridgehampton School grounds in memory of the Parkland victims. Justin and Cheryl Temple of Coconut Creek, Florida, donated #douglasstrong bracelets for the students to wear.
Mr. House, who has family ties to the Stoneman Douglas High School community, said remembering is “the problem that we face.”
“Tragedies happen, the nation pays attention for a moment, and then it forgets, often in a matter of days,” he said. “Nothing changes if we stop paying attention. Nothing changes if we choose to forget. So paying attention and remembering takes work, and that’s why we’re here.”
Additional reporting by Michael Heller and Kathryn G. Menu