FORT WALTON BEACH — At 9:17 a.m. Thursday, students in Okaloosa County schools paused for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting one year ago.
Although the massacre took place at 2:20 p.m., moments of silence were held at 17 minutes past the hour in schools across the state in honor of the 17 people killed.
At Choctawhatchee High School, Principal Lee Hale interrupted classes over the intercom to remember the 17 killed and 17 injured in Florida's deadliest school shooting.
“This morning at 9:17 a.m., our school district joins Broward County Public Schools in observing a moment of silence in honoring those whose lives were lost and to recognize those who were injured during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy one year ago,” he said.
In the Choctaw library, students bowed their heads in silence, pausing their work on computers and textbooks to observe the moment.
“I think that it’s pretty good that we are doing this just to be one as a community and as a school,” Choctaw freshman Maddie Bowell said after the moment of silence. “We hope that it doesn’t happen to us.”
Choctaw senior Bentley Siner said the event gives her a chance to encourage others to not let the memory of the tragedy fade.
“I think it’s sad that we have become so desensitized to how many times this has occurred, and it’s just tragic that this has become something that we are getting used to instead of something that should really hold shock in our minds,” she said. “It’s important for the seniors to set an example of how you should act and respect what happened, and to try to move forward and protect ourselves from things that could happen like this again.”
Breona Prophet, who is the freshman student president, said that the anniversary holds mixed emotions for her.
“Valentine's Day is a day of love, and what happened, it was full of hate,” she said.
Still, Prophet said she feels hopeful for the future, and thinks that one good thing that came out of the tragedy is that students have found their voice.
“I feel like it’s a moment where we can embrace and think about what has happened and what we can do next,” she said. “What inspired me was the March for our Lives that really changed my whole thinking process, and now I want to help be an activist for climate change now because I know that we can do things.”