Stories From Parkland: Cara Loughran

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.

Age 14

Damian and Denise Loughran were planning a big party for their daughter’s 15th birthday on Feb. 21.
But instead of celebrating the honor roll student’s first day driving with a learner’s permit, Denise and Damian, their son Liam, 17, who witnessed the tragedy, and hundreds of friends and family spent that day mourning Cara’s death.

Cara, which means “friend” in Irish, was a perfect name for the freshman who was fiercely devoted to her friends and family, here and in Ireland. She loved the beach, and surfing and gymnastics, but her true passion and talent was Irish dance. After seeing “Riverdance,” Cara was inspired. She and two of her friends started taking classes twice a week at Drake Irish School of Dance in Coral Springs.

“Cara was a happy, smart, sweet girl,” says Christina Deacy, director of Drake. “She always had a smile on her face, like she wanted to say something funny, but was holding it in.”

The night before the shooting, Cara and the class were rehearsing a performance piece, which they are now calling “Cara’s Dance” to honor her memory. On a recent Saturday, grieving students and families came together at the studio to make purple memorial bows. Purple was Cara’s favorite color. Deacy says the Drake dancers and their families will continue to wear the bows at all performances and competitions.

Irish dance competitions have started holding fundraisers and adding purple bows to costumes and competitor cards. Donations have come from as far as Ireland and Australia for the “Irish Dance Love for the Loughrans” GoFundMe page that Drake organized to help the family.

“Dance schools from all over have posted pictures of their students wearing purple and holding signs honoring Cara and so many gestures of love,” Deacy says. “We will never forget her. Cara was lovely and such a sweetheart.

“Even though she was quiet, her absence is loud. We all miss her.”

—Lisa Lucas

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