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Students mark anniversary of Parkland shooting with acts of service

By Nicholas Sakelaris
1/13
Students mark anniversary of Parkland shooting with acts of service
Students lay down notes and flowers at a makeshift memorial in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Thursday. Photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Students in South Florida are observing a moment of silence and working on service projects Thursday, the Valentine's Day anniversary of the Parkland school shooting that killed 17.

Some students are also staying home, to avoid the media spotlight and the emotional remembrance. Families of those killed in the attack plan to visit graves and participate in service projects.

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Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting occurred last Feb. 14, served breakfast to first responders. Classes will be let out early and a moment of silence will be observed around the time of the attack.

Sixteen-year-old MSD student Phoebe O'Mara wants to honor the friends she lost that day and was determined not to let the tragedy take away all the joy of the holiday. She decorated her house with Valentine's decor, including banners, fuchsia tinsel and hearts.

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"The point of it wasn't really to take back Valentine's Day, because I still think we should make it about the students and staff that were lost," she told CNN. "I don't want to forget them. I want to put some love into it."

All other schools in the Broward school district will remain on normal hours, though they will work on service projects and observe a moment of silence.

Students and school district staff planned to assemble meal kits for the charity Feed My Starving Children in the afternoon. The city of Parkland planned an interfaith ceremony for the community in the evening.

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In neighboring Coral Springs, counseling and therapy dogs will be available at a temporary temple, which will also hold a nondenominational ceremony.

Massages and manicures will also be offered.

Throughout South Florida, schools will show acts of kindness, unity and support through artwork, writings and songs.

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In Tallahassee, Fla, the state capital observed a moment of silence.

President Donald Trump said in a statement Thursday that Americans will not rest until our schools and communities are safe.

"Melania and I join all Americans in praying for the continued healing of those in the Parkland community and all communities where lives have been lost to gun violence," Trump said. "We reaffirm the bonds of faith, family, community, and country that unite us as one nation."

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Nikolas Cruz, a former Douglas student, confessed to killing 13 students and three faculty members in the attack. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked for a grand jury investigation into school safety measures.

A grand jury could issue subpoenas, look for potential failures and determine how the Broward district allocated resources for campus safety. It could also explore whether school officials diverted bond funds that were "solicited for school safety initiatives."

"Although protecting our students is a perpetual process, there are steps we can take immediately to improve safety in our schools," DeSantis said in a statement. "While we cannot bring back the innocents we lost, we can honor their memory by learning from the mistakes that were made and resolving to swiftly correct all those within our control."

Many problems a grand jury could investigate were brought to light by local news reports, including the discovery of $55 million in school safety funds that were rejected in 2013. School safety initiatives were promised but never took place and Florida districts often hid crimes that occurred on campuses, the reports said.

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez took the stage at the Washington, D.C., march for 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the length of time the shooting went on at the school on February 14. She also read the names of those who died. Photo by David Tulis /UPI | License Photo

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