Florida community grieves at vigil after mass school shooting

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Parkland (Reuters): Hundreds gathered for a prayer vigil at Parkridge church, in Parkland, Florida, after a school shooting in which 17 people were killed.

Suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, was arrested more than an hour after shooting began at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. He was detained after mixing with students fleeing the scene.

According to police, picked up an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, residents thought mass murder was something that happened somewhere else.

“Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as gun violence,” Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was killed, said at a special sunset service for the dead. “It happened in Parkland. … What is unfathomable is that Jamie took a bullet and is dead.”

Until a troubled teenager named Nikolas Cruz, according to police, picked up an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, residents thought mass murder was something that happened somewhere else.

“Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as gun violence,” Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was killed, said at a special sunset service for the dead. “It happened in Parkland. … What is unfathomable is that Jamie took a bullet and is dead.”

Fourteen-year-old Ava DiGilio, listening in the crowd, could only agree.

“People used to boast about how this was the safest town in Florida,” said the eighth-grader, who heard the shots from within her middle-school classroom. “No place is safe anymore.”

Flanking the grieving Guttenberg on the stage at the town’s amphitheater were 17 four-foot-tall ornamental angels — one for each victim.

They were lent to the town by the city of Sunrise, Florida, which first used them to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

“Unfortunately, we have to use them again,” said Kevin Pickard, a Sunrise city worker. “We didn’t think we’d need them so close to home.”

There is no downtown per se in Parkland, which is some 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale and sits next to the Everglades, that majestic grassy Florida wonder that Marjory Stoneman Douglas — a journalist and environmentalist who died in 1998 — fought to save.

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