Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumna reflects on shooting one year later
For Paige Allen, the worst part about Valentine’s Day last year was messing up her ceramics project. Or so she thought.
“Valentine’s Day… I didn’t like it before… so… today’s going to be a bad day. I know something bad is going to happen today,” Allen remembered thinking one year ago.
As a senior attending her last semester at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the only thing on Allen’s mind was going home and attending her family’s Valentine’s Day dinner.
Allen and many others were in the school’s auditorium for last period when the fire alarm suddenly sounded. Students thought the alarm was an alert for a typical fire drill and went outside to follow procedures. A security guard notified them that the situation was more than just a drill and told the students to go back inside.
“I think it took a good minute for my friend to convince me it was real because I kept telling him… [security was] saying it was real, to take it seriously,” Allen said. “And then when I realized it was real, I just got numb and I didn’t feel anything.”
On Feb. 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became the target of one of several mass school shootings in U.S. history. Seventeen students and staff members were killed, and thousands of others, including Allen, were emotionally wounded. Valentine’s Day will never have the same meaning.
“Now I guess I just… I don’t want to celebrate [Valentine’s Day] anymore… I guess I just wish this didn’t affect me in the long run because I was emotional,” Allen said. “Today, I didn’t get out of bed until like 3 o’clock… The first person who said ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ to me made me cry.”
After completing her senior year, Allen moved 30 minutes away from MSD, but anytime she visits home, she usually avoids Pine Island Road at all costs. On Feb. 14, 2019, she decided to give the school a visit.
Allen stood among other grieving students in front of MSD, where a memorial decorated with flowers, balloons and stones was displayed. But she did not stay for long and walked off alone. Allen said she did not come to the memorial because she wanted to, but because she needed to.
“I don’t want this to affect me for the rest of my life, so I just came to see it today. Because I didn’t want to get into the habit of avoiding it,” Allen said. “You can’t get closure. I just came to look at it and go.”
By Rachida Harper