PARKLAND, Fla. – Thousands of people gathered on Thursday at an open-air amphitheater in Pine Trails Park to remember the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The mourners were moved to tears when the father of a 14-year-old girl, Jamie Guttenberg, one of the victims, spoke about her.
“Jamie was the light of the party,” he said, adding that after he lost his brother to cancer last year, he thought the pain was unbearable, but what he has experienced since he lost his daughter was infinitely worse.
He regretted that he did not say goodbye to his daughter when she left for school that morning and urged parents to hug and kiss their children every day and to tell them they love them.
Next to him on the stage, authorities and religious leaders appealed for unity in the face of this tremendous tragedy.
During the vigil, hundreds of people laid flowers and lit candles near pictures of the 17 victims – which included a 17-year-old Venezuelan, Joaquin Oliver, who just last year became a US citizen – and wrote messages of sympathy, support and hope.
There were also messages condemning the National Rifle Association, the powerful arms lobby in the country that is opposed to greater gun regulation in the country.
People held up posters that said “Enough is enough” and “NRA stop killing our children.”
Wednesday’s shooting by attacker Nikolas Cruz comes a year and half after a mass shooting in gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, also in Florida, that had killed 49.