Today marks one year since tragedy struck at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Attending class and work like any other day, 17 students and staff members were killed when a gunman opened fire on campus.

On this first anniversary, some members of the Elon community spent this morning honoring and remembering the victims and brought the campus together to reflect on the past year. 

Elon freshman Katie Zimmermann organized this morning’s vigil alongside another classmate. A childhood friend who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survived the shooting. 

“Hearing her story really impacted me, and having someone living in a nice neighborhood in New Jersey, gun violence has never personally impacted me, and it was always something that was really sad, but I didn't think much about it because I thought nothing could be done,” Zimmermann said. 

Zimmermann said having someone close to her who was personally affected by a mass shooting motivated her to bring conversations about gun violence and reform to campus. 

“Having someone who I grew up with and I played with every day going through something like that was really impactful, and I realized this isn’t right and this isn’t normal and something needs to be changed,” Zimmermann said.

Another Elon student is grieving for her own community back in Parkland. Elon sophomore Theresa Prayther graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2017. She said this past year has been difficult to process. 

“Sometimes you feel emptiness. Sometimes you just get rushed with sadness and other times anger. It’s very confusing, but you just have to let your body do what it wants and accept those emotions and not hide them away,” Prayther said. 

The grieving process has been ongoing for Prayther, and today was another part of her journey through the sadness.

For Prayther, she said looking out for one another is crucial on days like today. 

“Make sure you are loving and supporting one another. I’m a human services major, so making sure everyone is okay and putting yourself out to help others is very important.”