Mom posts heartbreaking Valentine's letter to daughter who died in the Parkland shooting one year ago
This Valentine's Day marks the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Texas. A lone gunman entered the school armed with an AR-15 and killed 17 students and teachers before getting apprehended by authorities. His defense team offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors rejected the plea because they still seek the death penalty. A lengthy trial seems inevitable.
After mass shootings, the perpetrators tend to attract a lot of attention, while the victims go overlooked. On February 14, 2018, seventeen lives were cruelly snuffed out, devastating seventeen families and seventeen circles of friends. 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff was one of those victims. For Valentine's Day, her mother, Lori, wrote a heartbreaking letter to her deceased daughter, reminiscing about the last time they saw each other:
"It’s Valentine’s Day. A day full of love, chocolates and flowers. For me, it is more than that now. Last Valentine’s Day was the last time I saw you. You wore a black and white dress. Your long dark hair dangled. Your makeup looked just right. Of course, your white Converse sneakers protected your feet as you walked in to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School."
"Valentine’s Day is now about memories. Today, like all days, I remember. I remember you weren’t looking forward to going to school that day. Like many 14 year old girls, you wanted a Valentine and were disappointed that you didn’t have one. High school love is magic. I was 14 once and those butterflies had whirled inside of me too. I wanted that for you.
"I remember the golden gift bag I gave you that morning. It held a pair of diamond earrings to make you feel pretty, a chocolate bar to make you smile, and hair ties so you wouldn’t ask for mine. I touched your ears, putting the stems of the earrings through your lobes. You said you were ready to go to school after that. You opened the car door. 'I love you,' I said. 'I love you, too,' you said.
"Valentine’s Day. The last time I saw you alive."
Lori goes on to describe the impact of Alyssa's loss. The family misses her terribly, and "Dad fights for you every day. He is your voice." Her soccer team honors her memory by wearing her number '8' on their sleeves, sometimes turning it sideways to symbolize 'infinity.' In a very mom moment, she reveals that she discovered that Alyssa once jumped off a bridge by the beach. ("Alyssa, you jumped off a bridge?!") And in a touching passage, Lori describes how she found healing through activism.
"There are things I do in your memory that I never thought I could or would ever do. See, a mother’s protective instincts don’t leave when we lose the ones we love. I talk to other moms who have lost children. We talk about you. We talk about their kids. But when we look into each other’s eyes, we see it. A fire. I ran for the school board. I won! I screamed on national TV - words of rage directed at the President! I started a non-profit called Make Our Schools Safe and there is a law named after you in New Jersey--Alyssa’s Law...
"It’s Valentine’s Day. As I remember you, grief washes over me. But that grief emboldens me to fight for change. I wish I could take all the bullets for you. It’s been a year since I saw you. You, in that black and white dress, those Converse on your feet, and that smile. I’ll never forget that smile. It feels like yesterday. I just want you back.
On CNN, anchor Brooke Baldwin teared up while reading Lori's letter, which was published on an online project called Dear World. While the victims of the Parkland massacre are gone, they are not forgotten, as their memories and spirits live on.