Parkland, the small community in South Florida, was a victim of a sneak attack by a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High student, and this shooting made the news that 17 were killed No stores, no theaters, no restaurants, for an area that minds its own business and supports its high school

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

I didn’t know any of the victims, but I did know Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

It was the mid 80s when I found out that a new community would be built just north of Coral Springs. I was writing sports for the Miami Herald, but thought this would be a good story, except my editor said let the community be built first. When it was, he assigned someone else.

The area was known as Parkland and one by one homes were being constructed. Nice homes for a nice, quiet neighborhood. It was all so new that people who bought these homes wanted to know more, as in schools, stores, parks, etc.

The stores you can forget, for there are none in Parkland. Parks were on the agenda but they would have to wait. Most important was advertizing the area as it was then, and making the purchase of homes most vital. The owners had to fill out long applications, provide references, provide background information.

Homes, homes and just more homes, no thoughts about finding space for apartments, condominium apartments.

I remember discussions regarding a school. Should it be a elementary school, middle school or high school? There were elementary and middle schools close by the area, but Coral Springs High was already overcrowded and so Parkland was going to get its own high school.

Right where you leave Coral Springs and enter the new town would be the high school. A football, soccer field would come later. In 1990 the school was standing. It brought in about 1,000 students, some from Coral Springs, but when more property was underway, Coral Springs students were told that space had to be made for the incoming students from Parkland.

Why Marjory Stoneman? Well, it was her idea back in the early 80s that brought interest to the grassy land just north of Coral Springs and about an hour north of Miami. It was said that with all she did to bring this, she deserved to have the high school named after her.

Now the school is one of the biggest in the state. It can hold about 3,000 students. It no longer plays its football games at Coral Springs when the Eagles, yes the Eagles, got a new stadium for both football and soccer.

There was some much extra land there, that there was no problem installing tennis courts, and after that came the new baseball field. Parkland was clean, garbage was picked up daily. If you tossed something onto the streets, you would be fined.

And as Parkland grew, Coral Springs became very crowded. It had all the stores, the movie theaters, restaurants, and traffic jams. Nothing in Parkland, though, except for condominiums going up, and a neat high school that was building a reputation for its academics.

Slowly, the Eagles were announcing new athletic programs. Football began things, then came baseball and basketball, where the annual Kreul Basketball tournament was played every year. A dozen schools from around the nation played in it, with the semifinal and finals held at Douglas.

Colleges sent coaches to recruit there, but it was a good thing that they had a large concession area and a host room for coaches and media. No other place for food unless you wanted to head for Coral Springs, but there were plenty of motels in the area.

With all this, it’s difficult to believe a former student just strolled on in from the front entrance. He was carrying a bag that had no resemblance to a school bag. Was there security at the entrance, and if so, was he checked out?
Schools should not hesitate to include security. It’s seen at Capital High, at Santa Fe High, and many schools in the state. No security at St. Michael’s, but perhaps it will learn a lesson from this.

No sense filling in the killer’s name. He could get a life sentence, could be executed, but he won’t be firing away anymore. There is another side entrance at the school, but that is usually for other schools that arrive to play a game of basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and I can’t recall any security there.

I had been in the area many times, to cover athletic events, and to run the annual 5-killomer race through Parkland. It was always clean there, the people were always polite, and it doesn’t mater that there’s nothing there but property with high prices, and the high school.

It’s Parkland, a little different but a small town/community with people who care, who support the athletic teams, who elect a mayor and some other officials every four years, and all of a sudden, there’s this disaster.

Currently, its says 17 were killed, most of them students, and it’s sad to know that Aaron Fies, a 37-year-old assistant football coach at the school, was gunned down as he stepped in between the murderer and a student and took the bullet. He died later at the hospital. About 15 others were reported injured.

It’s sad when this occurs anywhere, but it’s worse when you know the school, the area, its history, and that is what made me write this.

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