MSD opens remembrance garden to remember the 17 students and teachers killed in 2018 MSD shooting


Rayne Welser

Literacy Coach Gabriela Prochilo reads the plaques in the MSD Remembrance Garden. The garden was unveiled on Feb. 14, 2022, the four year anniversary of the MSD shooting.

Vincent Ciullo, Writer

To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 17 lives lost on Feb. 14, 2018 in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a remembrance garden located on campus opened for the school community on the annual BCPS Day of Service and Love.

Those in attendance at the unveiling included the mayors and city commissioners of Parkland and Coral Springs, Principal Michelle Kefford, Assistant Principal Jay Milmed and Tom and Gina Hoyer, the parents of Luke Hoyer, who was killed in the shooting. Also at the opening were hundreds of MSD students and teachers, who volunteered during the day to give back to the community.

A rose was placed beside each victim’s plaque, that displayed their picture and graduation year or staff position and a short message about the victim. The Hoyers placed a rose on their son’s plaque alongside MSD teachers who placed roses on the other plaques. After each name was read and a rose placed on each plaque, a moment of silence was observed.

At the conclusion of the moment of silence, the song “Shine” was played to honor the lost 17 Eagles. Written by MSD alumni Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña in 2018, “Shine” champions a message of overcoming the shooting and uplifting others who were in despair following the shooting.

“The unveiling of the remembrance garden was really melancholy. I felt remorse for those who were inside the garden that knew these students, staff, friends and family,” freshman Sophie Kusuma said.

The creation of this garden was intended to serve as a continuation of the healing and recovery of the families and the community. The remembrance garden is located in the northeast section of campus and is slightly tucked away from the main areas of the school. Located just outside the gym, the remembrance garden is open for viewing to students and school staff; it is not open to the public.

“I think the reaction to the garden is going to be positive,” mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, a victim of the tragedy, and Broward County Public Schools board member Lori Alhadeff said before the unveiling. “It’s important for the students and staff to have a place to go to remember the 17.”

After the opening of the 1500 building at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, some families of the victims were upset that the building lacked recognition of the 17 lives lost in the shooting. The construction of the new building was a result of the closure of the 1200 building, where the shooting took place in 2018.

The school’s faculty council was involved in the planning process of the garden. The council consists of 11 members of the MSD school faculty, who are elected at the beginning of each year to help resolve problems at MSD.

Meetings between the faculty council, MSD administration, BCPS representatives and some families of the victims were held over Zoom and Microsoft Teams in order to ensure the remembrance garden met the needs of the families, students and staff.

“The committee’s role was to choose something that we felt was best for a long-term memorial on campus for faculty and students,” Faculty Council Chair Melissa Falkowski said. “There was a need and a desire from the families to have something be here on campus.”

The first step for the remembrance garden was a staff survey, which allowed MSD faculty to give their input and insight.

Designs for the remembrance garden were discussed throughout the formation period, including the use of plaques that would remember each of the 17 victims respectively. Numerous designs were discussed. However, in the finalized garden, a semi-circle brick wall design was chosen.

Materials were selected based on whether they could withstand hurricanes and other natural events Florida is prone to.

In December 2021, a construction company began by clearing out the existing garden space, which included benches and rocks in preparation for the new remembrance garden. Some items were sent to be reused in MSD’s Marjory’s Garden. The construction began on the week of Dec. 11, 2021 and ended in early February. New benches and foliage were added to the existing garden area, in addition to the semi-circle brick wall with the plaques.

The project was funded by the school district. The Eagle Eye contacted representatives from the BCPS Public Information Office and Dr. Antoine Hickman, Chief of Student Support Initiatives & Recovery for information on the total cost of the project. The requests went unanswered.   

After four years of grieving and remembering, the remembrance garden is a way for members of the MSD community to reflect on the 17 fallen Eagles.

This story was originally published in the March 2022 Eagle Eye print edition.