How do we feel two years after the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018? We all get asked this question, but don’t answer it honestly. We can’t say good because it sounds insensitive, and we can’t say bad because then we will get the looks of pity that we all despise. So we say some version of the truth like, “I’m a lot better than before” or “it changes day to day,” and then hope the answer was sufficient enough for whoever asked to move on to a new subject.
Truthfully, it’s the feeling of being distraught, a sense of wanting to forget and a feeling of being forever changed. No matter where we were, what we saw or what we heard, we all experienced some level of serious trauma.
Depression and anxiety intensified for many students, and most of us are dealing with the many side effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We all became a little broken after the events of Feb. 14, 2018. Some of us show our cracks more than others, but the cracks are there just the same.
We have tried therapy, breathing exercises, meditation, essential oils, art, writing, service animals, new medications and community activities, but nothing quite fills those cracks completely. More often than not we distract ourselves from the fact that there is even a crack to begin with, sometimes to the point that we actually feel completely whole. But that feeling fades after a while.
And while we’re trying to distract ourselves, we have chocolates, candies, teddy bears and everything resembling a heart shape covering almost every store we walk into. This Valentine’s day decor taunts us with the fact that we’ve lost this holiday forever.
We will see all the posts and the rom-coms that come out on that day, but it doesn’t change the beyond disturbing event that Valentine’s Day symbolizes for our whole community.
We can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore without feeling guilty. We think of the gifts we received and gave that day, the candy that we gorged ourselves on and the plush animals we hugged and held. And it feels wrong.
It feels wrong to want a normal Valentine’s Day that we had our whole childhood. Without the memorials and anniversary posts. Without feeling like we can’t breathe when we think about it. Without crying when we think of the people we lost. But we do.
Sometimes we even wonder if we’ll still feel the pain attached to this day when we’re older and the phrase “time heals all wounds” starts to sound comforting. But how long do we have to wait to feel normal again, to get that innocence back?
The truth is we find a new normal that works for us and as for the innocence we never truly get that back, it belongs to that day now. We’re all going to do something different that day, and no matter what it is, the only thing that matters is how it makes us feel. Whether it’s volunteering to plant gardens and clean beaches or to block out the memories with friends and family, do what you want, what makes you feel whole again.
No matter how hard it is, this is our day now. It’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s day. It’s our day. And we get to do whatever feels right, no questions asked.
This story was originally published in the March 2020 Eagle Eye print edition.