Parkland students visit Pulse memorial, honor victims of both mass shootings

6 survivors stop in Orlando as their high school reopens to students

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter, Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - It's a small club, that no one wants to be a part of, but the number of its involuntary members are growing every year. On Wednesday, a group of Parkland, Florida students who survived  the most recent mass shooting met a group of survivors who lived through the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

Six students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 where shot and killed on Valentine's Day stopped at Pulse nightclub Wednesday, the site of another mass shooting, on their way back to South Florida from Tallahassee.

"We share their grief and their concern. Two weeks ago the entire world reached out to us here in Orlando with thoughts and prayers," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. "We want to pay that back as much as we can."

The group of survivors first read the names of the 49 people killed at Pulse on June 12, 2016 and then the Parkland City Commissioner read the names of the 17 students and faculty killed two weeks ago.

Students and teachers returned to the Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus on Wednesday. The Broward County School superintendent said they had a 95 percent attendance for the first half-day back.

"I'm going to be going back to school tomorrow," Stoneman Douglas sophomore Annabell Claprood said. "Is there ever going to be a time where I'm comfortable walking back into a school? No." 

The group of students stopped at the former nightclub turned makeshift memorial on their way home from attempting to speak Florida lawmakers to make policy changes to Florida gun laws and increase school security in schools.

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced a plan that would meet some of the students' requests, including placing a law enforcement officer in every school, but stopped short of the assault weapons ban they are demanding.

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Even though the Florida legislative session is almost over the students told News 6 they won't stop advocating for change.

Dyer said he supports banning assault weapons, but added that more steps need to be taken to prevent further mass shootings.
"If you can keep someone like the shooter like in the most recent tragedy and prevent someone from purchasing one as easily as he could, we could potentially avert some of the tragedies in the future," Dyer said.

The visit between shooting survivors happened one day before the federal trial of Noor Salman was set to begin. Salman, the widow of the Pulse shooter, Omar Mateen, is charged with aiding and abetting her husband and lying to the FBI.

Dyer said ahead of the trial he is being mindful of the survivors and family and friends who lost people.

"We are making sure that the appropriate mental health type care is available," Dyer said. "We still have Orlando Assistance Center open on Michigan (Avenue), so we are hoping anyone that is feeling that they need to talk about that they make use of those facilities."

The Orlando United Assistance Center, created after the Pulse shooting, is at 507 East Michigan Street. For more information visit orlandounitedassistancecenter.org.

Anyone who needs immediate assistance can call 1-407-500-HOPE (4673). The help line is open 24 hours a day.

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