Six months after 17 people were killed on their campus, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned on Wednesday for another year of class.
The massacre sparked the March for Our Lives movement, which culminated in March when thousands of students rallied for tighter gun-control laws in Washington, D.C.
That demonstration inspired 800 similar events throughout the country, with many of the Parkland, Florida student survivors spending their summers working as full-time activists on a “Road to Change” tour.
The tour ended three days ago in Newtown, Connecticut, the location of the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed.
After a summer on a tour bus, the Parkland students returned to school today with some sentiments similar to any other high-school student.
Jaclyn Corin, a senior who co-founded March for Our Lives, tweeted the seemingly mundane message “Last first day of high school,” punctuated by the hashtag #MSDStrong, a reference to the students’ rallying together after the deadly massacre.
One of the movement’s youngest members, sophomore Lauren Hogg, told ABC News Wednesday morning that she's going back to school knowing “it’s never going to be normal again.”
“I wish we didn’t have to experience this new normal,” she said. “I wish it was just like every other year—I’d pick out my clothes, I’d have a good time—but this year, I can’t help but constantly think about not only myself and my friends at my school, but constantly thinking about my friends at other schools who don't have as many safety precautions as we now do, and I worry about them.”
Hogg, along with her brother David—who graduated this spring after co-founding March for Our Lives—have gained national attention as leading voices for the student movement and in the gun control debate. Together, they published #NeverAgain: A Generation Draws the Line on their experience on that tragic day and the aftermath.
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed in the school shooting, tweeted praise Wednesday morning for his son Jesse, a senior returning to school.
“First day of school is not supposed to feel this way. Jaime was always most excited and I am missing her excitement today. I am so proud of @JesseGuttenberg. This year he will park in the senior lot and will have to walk by the building where Jamie was murdered 2 times per day,” tweeted Guttenberg.
He continued: “All summer long, we were not sure he would go back but he made the mature decision to do so. It is something that will be tough but my son continues to amaze me. Love you Jesse!!!”
Anisha Saripalli, a recent Stoneman Douglas graduate, marked the first day back by remembering her friend Carmen, one of the victims.
Saripalli wrote: “Today marks 6 months since I was told that Carmen was one of the victims. She was one of the last ones identified. In an instant, all the hope I had disintegrated. She was supposed to be going to Gainesville this week with me, if she decided on UF.”