Parkland Shooting Victim’s Mom Has Turned Her Grief Into Activism
Valentine’s Day 2019 represents heartbreak and loss for the Parkland, FL community, as it marks the first anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. A feature-length documentary “Parkland: Inside Building 12,” which will be released to the public on February 12th, recounts the horrific tragedy and national movement that followed through the harrowing stories of the survivors.
Mom Lori Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa in the tragedy, is featured in the film. In this exclusive Q & A, Lori tells us how she turned her grief and anger into action and activism.
1) On February 14, 2019, what is one message that you want to send to your fellow Americans as they remember the Parkland tragedy this week?
Last year, my thought was that this tragedy could never happen to my daughter. The truth is, this can happen anytime, anywhere. And that’s a message I want fellow Americans to remember one year after Parkland. But it’s about more than remembering. It’s about taking action. Be a voice and an advocate for the safety of our communities, and the safety of our children’s schools.
2) What has this past year been like for you and your family?
The past year has been a struggle for our family. But through that grief, we have found our fight. In the last year, we have come together to advocate for change. Together we’ve had the courage and resilience to push forward. And we won’t stop fighting until our schools are safe. At home, we’ve been healing as a family. We recently got a Goldendoodle, who’s become an integral part of our family – my two boys love him.
3) What You’ve become an activist over the past year, running for school board and also starting your own non-profit, Make Our Schools Safe. Were you active in this way before or did the tragedy really propel you to take action?
Before the tragedy, I was a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t consider myself to be an activist or a particularly political person. Since the tragedy, I have vowed to do everything I can to make sure this never happens again.
I’ve gone from being a stay-at-home mom to having a spot on the Broward County School Board. Last week, we were in my home state of New Jersey to sign the Alyssa Law, which protects our schools by addressing the issue of law enforcement response time. In school emergencies, rapid notification of law enforcement is of paramount importance. Through Alyssa’s Law, every New Jersey public school will be installed with a panic alarm to provide the fastest possible support for any emergency.
4) What would you say to others who want to get involved but aren’t sure how to get started?
Our voices are our most powerful tools. Do not wait until this tragedy happens in your community. Anyone can and should be an advocate for school safety today.
My husband and I founded Make Our Schools Safe so that no other parent has to endure the pain we live with. Our mission is to improve the safety of schools, research and test best practices, as well as implement those protocols by creating model schools. So far, we’ve set up local chapters in high schools and universities nationwide, but that’s only the beginning.
I encourage others to join our fight. Visit makeourschoolssafe.org to learn how you can get involved. Every bit of support helps us to provide secure environments where our children can focus on learning and growing without the worry of violence.
5) As a parent, what has it been like watching the Parkland students, in particular, take an active lead on speaking out against gun violence?
It’s incredible what the students have accomplished this year. They’ve leveraged social media, and more importantly, their voices and their power to start a movement. They are our future leaders. I’m so inspired by them.
But I’m also inspired by the parents, the 16 other families whose lives forever changed on February 14, 2018. Together we passed Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which was an instrumental step to making our Florida schools safer.
6) If you could send a message to Congress, to the country, right now about school safety and gun control, what would it be?
School safety should not be a partisan issue. There should not be a party line for keeping our kids safe. Thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough. We need action, we need funding, and we need to make our classrooms safe.
There are lawmakers at every level who have joined the fight. Alyssa’s Law was a huge stepping stone, and I hope other states will soon follow New Jersey’s lead.
7) Why is “Parkland: Inside Building 12” such an important film and why did you decide to participate in it?
I did it to honor Alyssa. I want the world to know who she was. Her voice was silenced on Feb. 14, 2018, but I won’t let her be forgotten. And that goes for all the victims, the survivors and for their loved ones. It’s a tragedy we must never forget.
Charlie Minn and Dreamscape Media made this film to ensure their stories are heard. Through hoopla digital, it’s accessible for anyone with a valid library card to watch. It’ll also be available on Amazon.
It’s such an important film because it expands our message and our reality beyond Parkland. It’s important for everyone–lawmakers, elected officials, parents–to see what happened that day. They need to see what happened, so it can never happen again.
And ultimately, I hope people will see the film and learn how they can live for Alyssa; and the 16 other lives lost. With passion and persistence, it can be done.
Below is the official trailer for “Parkland: Inside Building 12.” To ensure this work is accessible to a wider audience, the documentary is available to anyone with a valid library card.”
This piece was featured in the Feb. 10th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.
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