Parkland building to be demolished six years after mass shooting

This story was updated on Friday, June 14, 2024 at 3:37 p.m.

In 2018, Building 1200 of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became the scene of one of the worst school shootings in the country.

Six years later, it is finally being demolished. The demolition of the 1200 building will take several weeks. It is a mechanical demolition, meaning it will be torn down piece by piece rather than blown up.

Demolition began on Friday, June 14. Seventeen people, including 14 students, were killed on February 14, 2018, when a lone gunman – a former student – opened fire inside the building.

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The demolition has caused mixed feelings in the community. People want to remember the victims and at the same time let go of painful memories.

Dylan Persaud, a 2021 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was at the school during the shooting and was also there during Friday's demolition.

“I've been waiting for this day for a while,” he told WLRN. “This is the point at the end of this story.”

Since the shooting in 2018, the building has been toured by jurors, politicians and others to better understand what happened that day.

“Now is the time to get rid of it. That chapter is closed. Its usefulness as a teaching tool has expired,” said Ryan Petty, a school safety advocate who lost his daughter Alaina in the tragedy.

Just days before the demolition, he attended a Florida School Safety Summit in Orlando. Petty was there with Tony Montalto, who lost his daughter Gina in the mass shooting.

On Friday, June 14, 2024, demolition of Building 1200 of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will begin. Six years earlier, 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school, with much of the shooting occurring in the classroom building.

Montalto told WLRN he understands the pain associated with the building, but also recognizes its value in remembering the lives lost.

“My son is worried that if the building collapses, people in the community will forget what happened there,” he said. “We must always remember who was kidnapped, because that is the real tragedy of the event.”

“It's not that the event happened – it's that we lost so many wonderful people.”

Like Montalto, Debbie Hixon hopes Broward County will build a memorial for the victims.

“Let's tear the building down and put something functional in the space,” Hixon told WLRN. “It reminds us of the people who were taken from us – but not how they died, but how they lived.”

Hixon's husband, Chris, was the school's athletic director and died in the shooting while trying to stop the gunman. She has served on the Broward County School Board since 2020.

Hixon, Petty and Montalto told WLRN that while this closes another chapter of the Parkland tragedy, the pain is never truly over.

“We will never be done,” Montalto said. “Every day I wake up and think of Gina. She is often the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night.”

Bryan Lequerique was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas at the time of the shooting. He had come to watch the demolition and spoke emotionally to reporters.

“It definitely takes you back to that day,” he said, describing what happens to him every time he drives past the building.

“This is very important for the community: it is time to end this very painful chapter in everyone’s life.”

Although the building is being demolished, many community members have worked hard to preserve their loved ones' legacy through their dedication and community involvement.

“As the building is demolished and we look for ways to memorialize the people who lost their lives here, I think we should do that not only with what we put on this site, but also with how we live our lives,” Hixon said.

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