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School building in Parkland demolished six years after massacre

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For more than six years, Building 1200 of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has been a lasting reminder of one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history.

The building had remained untouched since 2018, when a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members on Valentine's Day. But after it was secured as evidence in the gunman's trial, workers are scheduled to begin demolishing the three-story building piece by piece starting Friday.

Demolition was due to begin Thursday morning but was postponed due to heavy rain and flooding. The building, described by people who have toured it as a time capsule where bullet holes and blood stains can still be seen, was closed after the shooting and cordoned off as evidence at the crime scene.

Officials say the demolition is expected to take several weeks. School officials have not yet announced what will replace the building, but students, teachers and families have suggested building a permanent memorial.

The families of the victims were invited to watch the demolition, authorities said, and were assigned a special viewing area on the school grounds.

“Demolishing the building where my daughter Gina and so many others lost their lives is a necessary step moving forward,” Tony Montalto, president of Stand with Parkland, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Demolishing Building 1200 of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will not erase the fact that the worst high school shooting in U.S. history took place here. Seventeen wonderful lives were tragically snuffed out because a multitude of simple safety measures were not followed at the school.”

Other schools have closed and demolished buildings after a mass shooting. After the 2012 shooting, the old Sandy Hook Elementary School was demolished and reopened in 2016. Officials announced in 2022 that they plan to demolish Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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Consequences of the shooting at Parkland High School

Despite calls to demolish the old freshman building after the shooting, authorities ordered it to remain standing until the shooter's trial ends in 2022.

Prosecutors gave jurors a rare tour of the crime scene, where they saw bloodstains on the floor, bullet holes in the walls, shards of glass from broken windows, and homework and Valentine's Day gifts from students left behind in the chaos.

The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in November 2022. He was charged with 17 counts of murder.

Families of the victims reacted with anger and disgust to the jury's decision. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, but Florida law requires a unanimous vote on at least one count for a death sentence, the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported at the time.

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Parents relive horror at reenactment of Parkland school massacre

As part of the horrific reenactment of the 2018 shooting, ballistics experts fired shots at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Scott L. Hall, USA TODAY

The building was also used for a reenactment of last August's shooting. The incident was part of a civil lawsuit against former Broward County school security guard Scot Peterson, who was accused of failing to adequately protect students. Ballistics experts used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle identical to the one Cruz carried.

The lawsuit, filed by some of the victims' families, says Peterson neglected his duty by not entering the building and engaging the gunman. Peterson said he stayed outside because he could not determine where the shots were coming from.

In a separate criminal trial in June 2023, Peterson was acquitted on 11 counts of child neglect, reckless negligence and perjury.

“Creating a space that honors their heritage”

The Parkland shooting sparked a broad movement for gun control laws and public safety reforms. In the wake of the tragedy, the student-led organization March for Our Lives was founded.

March for Our Lives was founded by teenagers who survived the shooting. Since then, hundreds of demonstrations linked to the organization have taken place across the country. In 2018, more than 1 million people gathered in Washington, DC. Thousands of people also rallied in 2022 to demand stricter gun control laws following other mass shootings.

Parkland families also formed an advocacy group called Stand with Parkland in 2018. The national organization said it is committed to “practical public safety reforms that focus on keeping our children and staff safe at school, improving mental health care, and responsible firearm use.”

The organization has worked with state and local agencies to raise awareness about school safety and has been instrumental in many bipartisan efforts.

“While we can never erase the pain and memories, we can create a place that honors their legacy and provides hope for a safer future,” Montalto said. “That's why we fight every day to pass sensible legislation that will keep our family members safe in their school.”

Contributor: Hannah Phillips, Palm Beach Post