Students, teachers, staff return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS after tragedy

Posted at 9:35 AM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 09:35:47-05

On Feb. 23 about 85 percent of teachers and staff returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"It was tough. The police presence and all the press is numbing," said AP Government Teacher Jeff Foster.

FULL COVERAGE: Parkland school shooting

It was the first time teachers came back to the school since a gunman opened fire killing 17 and injuring more than a dozen others on Feb.14.

"We went out as a department this morning for breakfast and had a nice time. We've seen each other, but it's always been funeral settings, so it's been different. But once we were inside to go back in my classroom and see the exact state that I left it in when we went out, it was eerie and frankly I didn't touch anything," said Foster.

"Today you see teachers coming in and out. Today is really just a day we're giving the teachers to come back in to meet with each other," said Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Foster was ready to go back after grieving and joining his students in Tallahassee pushing for change.

"Love doing what I do and I can't wait for us to go back and have a normal day whatever normal is for Douglas," said Foster.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, students with their parents returned to the school briefly.

"Sunday is an open orientation kind of like an open house," said Runcie.

"Very emotional to come back here," said one student.

"I have a lot of faith in my classmates that we can make sure this never happens again," said another student.

Tanzil Philip had been busy since the shooting. He traveled to Tallahassee as well with the Never Again movement speaking with state lawmakers.

Now, he's prepared to return to school.

"Right now I'm feeling really scared about going back, not having my parents walk in with me," said Philip.

On the morning of Feb. 28, students officially returned to class.

"Not going to be normal, it's scary. Doesn't feel safe, but with all of our friends it's going to be better and I have to come back," said one student.

When they got to school, they were welcomed by hundreds of off-duty law enforcement officers.

"When this occurred our PBA President put out a request that all law enforcement officers in the area respond that are not on duty in full uniform to show support for the students, the faculty and the community," said Thomas Tiberio with the Broward County Police Benevolent Association.

Students did not bring backpacks. The focus that day was just emotional readiness and comfort, not curriculum.

"That day was extremely tough. Back to some kind of normal routine there were definitely emotions," said parent Seth Rand.

Class was over at 11:40 a.m. -- a four-hour day.

Juniors Adam Buchwald and Zach Hibshman reflected afterwards.

"Nice to see everyone, but it was sad to go back today," said Buchwald.

"I would say I felt extremely safe," said Hibshman on the police presence.

"Being at school was kind of cathartic in a way because we were with our friends, and we're there for each other," said senior Demitri Hoth. "When time goes by it's going to be the true testament of how everything plays out."