Students, parents make emotional return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus

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Liam Kiernan’s first stop when he reentered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time on Sunday afternoon was the band room.

The 15-year-old took his dad to the closet where he hid during the shooting.

“I walked in and showed him, that’s where I was,” Liam said.

Seeing the spot where his terrified son was while a gunman massacred 17 people in a nearby building was an emotional moment for David Kiernan.

“It was tough,” Kiernan, 52, said, his voice breaking a little. “So tough.”

Father and son were among the hundreds of families that visited Parkland campus for a “reunification” day on Sunday. Teachers, staff and counselors were on hand as students picked up the textbooks and backpacks they left behind as they fled during and after the Valentine’s Day shooting.

Janna Volz, 16, walked off campus in an #MSDStrong T-shirt with the backpack she retrieved slung over her shoulder. Her schedule is still uncertain because she had classes in the freshman building where the shooting occurred. The entire building is closed permanently, with plans being discussed to eventually tear it down and construct a memorial in its place.

Seeing her classmates was nice, Volz said, and she’s definitely ready to get back to school on Wednesday.

“Then again, it was still nerve-racking to be in there,” she said, nodding to the campus.

For Liam Kiernan, that initial fear was followed by a deep sense of support and love.

“I saw the teacher that saved my life and gave him a hug,” he said. “That was definitely a moment.”

Outside the chain link fence surrounding the campus, the memorial to honor the 17 victims was crowded with a steady stream of visitors dropping off fresh flowers, stuffed animals and notes. Some stopped by before or after visiting campus, and others came by just to offer a prayer or moment of silence. Almost everyone wore Marjory Stoneman Douglas branded clothing or maroon ribbons pinned to their chest.

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“It gives me hope to see the once broken coming back together again,” Liam said. “That’s what they would have wanted.”


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