See the Subtle, Heartbreaking Way Parkland Parents Honored Their Children at this Press Conference

Kelly Petty, Ryan Petty, and Gena Hoyer (from L to R) join other parents of those killed during the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for a press conference. Screenshot via CNN.

Earlier today, a group of family members of those killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gathered on the edge of the Parkland, Florida campus to share their message of support for legislation currently being considered in the Florida Legislature this week. They chose a simple-yet-powerful way to honor their children and present a united front in their memories on the topic of school safety.

The press conference, which was held at 2:30 pm Eastern Time, began after the parents gathered together and chanted “MSD Strong.” Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina was among those lost that day, spoke for the group.

“We come from different backgrounds and hold a variety of viewpoints,” said Petty. “Yet we are united on this, no family should endure what we have endured.” He called on the Legislature to take action on what he described as “common sense initiatives [that] are a good first step to keep all children safe at school,” and for Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) to sign the bill into law.

While Petty spoke, many of the parents held up photos of the 17 students and teachers who were killed that day, but it was a smaller tribute that caught my eye.

Here’s another photo from the press conference, showing Ryan Petty in the center, his wife Kelly on the left, and Luke Hoyer’s mother, Gena Hoyer on the right. Do you see what is on their shirts?

Screenshot via CNN.

A closer look, of the Pettys:

Screenshot via CNN.

And Hoyer:

Screenshot via CNN.

Alaina’s Mom.

Alaina’s Dad.

Luke’s Mom.

All the parents were wearing name tags with their children’s names on them. A short and clear message about who they are and why their cause is so important.

Because Alaina Petty was only 14 years old, loved to serve her community, and would “walk in and her smile would light up the room,” as her father told me during an interview for The Daily Beast, published earlier this morning.

Because Luke Hoyer was a 15 year old who loved basketball and chicken nuggets, and still let his mom call him “Lukey Bear.”

Because 15 other members of their community have families who are grieving a loss that will never truly heal.

And so they stood together on a sunny afternoon in front of the high school where their children would never again walk the halls, and asked their fellow Floridians to help encourage their legislators to pass this legislation that focuses on improving school security and mental health resources.

So far, supporters of Senate Bill 7026 are cautiously optimistic. The bill went through several dramatic rounds of debate and amendments, and passed the Senate today on a 20-18 vote.

The bill now heads to the Florida House for their vote, and if passed, on to Scott’s desk for signature. A nonnegotiable deadline is looming on Friday: the end of the legislative session. The momentum seems to be with the bill supporters for now, but there is little political will for a special session — both Scott and Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-FL) are expected to launch 2018 campaigns soon, Scott to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for the Senate, and Corcoran to run for governor.

The parents remain cautiously optimistic. Petty asked me to convey a message of thanks for everyone who is supporting their efforts, as he heads back to Tallahassee to “make sure the victims’ families’ voices are heard” before the session ends.

“All eyes are on the Florida house,” said Petty. “I’ll meet with anyone who has misgivings about this legislation. I want to focus on what we agree on, not what we disagree on.”

“This time must be different.”

Full text of Petty’s remarks at the press conference, as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, my name is Ryan Petty. I lost my daughter in the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We are many of the families of the amazing children and teachers murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. We would like to begin by recognizing the people of Parkland, Coral Springs, and across the country that have shown support for us in our time of tragedy and heartbreaking despair. Please know that the incredible support is deeply appreciated and has made a lasting impact on our lives. Thank you.

Today, we have gathered to support passage of legislation aimed at improving the safety of children and teachers in our schools. Our message is simple. We must be the last families to lose loved ones to mass murder in a school. This time must be different and we demand action!

We come from different backgrounds and hold a variety of viewpoints; yet we are united on this, no family should endure what we have endured. We implore our state leaders, and specifically the Florida Legislature, to demonstrate the ability take action.

We believe the following common sense initiatives are a good first step to keep all children safe at school:

  1. Our state leaders must enhance the safety and security of our schools.
  2. Our state leaders must keep guns away from those that pose a risk to themselves or others.
  3. Our state leaders must improve access to mental health care services for at-risk youth.

We believe Governor Scott’s proposals demonstrate good movement towards the goal of preventing future acts of school violence. We call for passage of legislation and funding that achieves these three initiatives during this legislative session. We ask Governor Scott to sign this legislation into law.

The victim’s families can’t make this change alone and we need the help of everyone touched by our tragedy or legitimately afraid for children to make sure these tragic school shootings stop. Please contact your Florida state representatives today and encourage them to pass this legislation immediately. The Florida legislative session wraps up in less than a week; please act now to let your elected representative know we have had enough.

This time must be different!

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.

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