By Grace Solomon
We awoke that morning to a day that felt like any other. We hurried through our morning ritual, a routine of tooth-brushing, cereal-pouring, lunch-making and other usual tasks that eventually led us out the front door and on the road to school.
For some, it would be for the last time.
By the time the sun set that evening, we were shaking, crying, trying to catch our collective breath, defiantly processing a kind of horror that only happens in “other places.” Or so we thought. Hours later, the words “Parkland Strong” were trending on social media.
In the days to come, #ParklandStrong became a rallying cry, appearing on T-shirts, bumper stickers and just about everywhere else. But for those of us who proudly call ourselves Parklanders, these words were much more than a hashtag.
“Parkland Strong” became a movement of kindness, courage, support, resilience, generosity and faith. I watched closely as families came together to help those in need. I witnessed children offering to help neighbors, while teachers reached out to console frightened students. I saw local businesses rally in support of a community in search of answers. For some, it was a small act of kindness. For others, it was a generous offer from an unexpected place.
When I joined the Parkland City Commission, I knew this was a city unlike any other. Over the years, I’ve experienced all the things that make Parkland special. I’m not talking about the manicured lawns or the beautiful homes. I’m talking about the people. The families. The connection we have with each other.
Before Feb. 14, it was hard to qualify what that all meant. But in the days that followed our city’s darkest hours, I learned what makes Parkland special. We are a family. Beneath the superficial possessions, we share a deep connection to each other. We are all vulnerable to the challenges that life deals us. No one is above that.
To each of the 17 families who continue to grieve, to the students still recovering from injuries, and to the teachers and students still working through this tragedy, please know that your Parkland family is here for you. I won’t pretend to understand the depth of your pain, but we will do everything we can to provide comfort, love and support.
Those 17 angels will continue to guide us and inspire us. We will remain strong for them.