PARKLAND, Fla. — Moving on to the next chapter in their already eventful lives, freshmen during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting graduated Tuesday, but without nine of their classmates whose lives were taken too soon.
"Never thought that I would have to run for my life at school, but that's something that I'm obviously going to have to live with," said Caroline Kendall, a graduating senior.
Alex Schacter, Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque, Jamie Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Alaina Petty and Peter Wang all died in the attack on Valentine's Day three years ago.
"I was not sure we would be able to host a live graduation ceremony, but I'm so glad that we're able to be here so that I can personally award you your high school diploma," said Principal Michelle Kefford.
"I was 14 years old when the shooting happened and now I turn 18 tomorrow," said Eden Samara, a graduating senior. "So, it feels like a lifetime ago, but at the same time, it could've been just yesterday."
At the ceremony Tuesday, families of fallen students were given shadow boxes containing a cap, tassel, stole and lapel pin.
"None of us ever thought that we would be celebrating their graduation day without them," said Tony Montalto, father of Gina Montalto.
Tony Montalto said he hopes his daughter's classmates can continue into the next chapter of their lives with perseverance.
"One thing we truly hope for is that those that are graduating today can let the legacy of Gina and the others be laughter, smiles and the good times they shared, rather than the tragedy that took them," said Montalto.