In the weeks following the deadliest high school shooting in United States history, editors and reporters for Lifestyle reached out to dozens of people whose lives were forever altered by what happened inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. We interviewed the officer who made the arrest and the sheriff who’s under fire. We spoke to student activists and students from a high school in west Boca Raton who walked 12 miles in a show of solidarity. We met survivors of a mass shooting in Orlando and survivors from the third floor at MSD. We attended an emotional town hall with members of the Parkland community. And we listened as grieving parents and heartbroken friends and family told us about their loved ones.

We’re deeply honored to share their words with our readers.

GINA MONTALTO
Age 14
Written for Lifestyle by Gina’s parents,
Tony and Jennifer Montalto

Gina was a blessing to us from the moment she entered this world. She arrived with her eyes wide open and ready to take on anything. Her infectious smile was there from the start and brightened any room she entered—a quality she retained throughout her amazing life.

Gina was instant friends with everyone she met. A caring and loving soul, she often was the first to reach out to the new kids in class and welcome them into the neighborhood. She also had a great sense of humor and a penchant for being silly; even goofy at times.

Always trying to make things better for others, Gina loved to do volunteer work, especially if it involved helping kids. She was a Girl Scout and active in a local church.

Gina was known to all as an avid reader. Once she told her mother that she loved books so much that she wanted to live in a library. The Harry Potter series and Percy Jackson novels were among her favorites. One of her favorite quotations from these books was, “I’m not choosing one of your paths. I’m making my own.” She was, indeed, a very independent girl.

Gina loved to cook with her father on the weekends. When asked about her “secret” to the delicious food she prepared, she replied, “The special ingredient was love.” Gina’s love for cooking really came out during the Christmas holiday while sharing the kitchen with her grandmother. Gina was a tremendous helper.

She loved to surf, snorkel and ski. She did [many of these] activities with her best buddy, her brother, Anthony. They loved each other very much. Gina enjoyed playing sports, from tennis to flag football to soccer. She may not have been the most athletic kid on the field, but she had a fierce competitive spirit.
Gina joined the color guard last winter. She competed through the spring and was a part of the Eagle Regiment that won the Florida state championship in the fall of 2017.

She also was a bit of a daredevil, riding all the extreme roller coasters at the Orlando theme parks with her mother. As Gina was maturing, she really enjoyed it when they went for an afternoon of shopping or a trip to the spa together.

Gina’s friends and fellow students describe her as unique, kind, cheerful and intelligent. We find comfort in knowing all these great traits shined through in her actions—and that others will always remember the things that made Gina so special.

We’d like to thank everyone for the love, prayers and support we have received. We ask that all the students affected by this tragedy hug their parents more and go on to do great things—just as Gina would have.