Thousands of grieving students, family members and school staff joined a candlelight vigil Thursday night for the victims of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Seventeen people were killed and 16 injured Wednesday, when the suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle, carrying “multiple magazines.” Cruz, a former student who was expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons, was charged Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
A candlelight vigil service for the victims, who included Stoneman Douglas assistant football coach Aaron Feis, began with a moment of silence on Thursday night before the names of each of the 17 victims was read aloud, triggering audible sobs from the thousands mourners who filled an outdoor auditorium. The later crowd broke out into spontaneous chants of “no more guns,” according to the Associated Press.
“Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as gun violence,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie, 14, was slain Wednesday. “It happened in Parkland, ” he told the crowd, many of them dressed in the school’s maroon color and holding white flowers.
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a Parkland native and Stoneman Douglas alumni, also spoke Thursday night at a ceremony where 17 angel statues stood representing the victims of the shooting. “I grew up in Stoneman Douglas,” Rizzo said. “I played on those fields, I went to those classes. I studied in those classrooms, the same school we saw in the video yesterday for all the wrong reasons.”
“I want you to know that you’re not alone in your grief. We’re all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you.”
Democratic Congressional representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the neighboring 23rd district of Florida, spoke at the vigil, encouraging the grieving community to demand gun control reform from their elected representatives.
“We must hold other people’s elected officials accountable. We must make sure that they hear us,” Wasserman Schultz said, The Hill reports. “We will help lead you to help other communities elect people who will do the right thing, who will make sure no one’s families ever have to go through this again.”