Florida school shooting victims remembered at candlelight vigil

Sea of candles light up dark sky as names of 17 victims read

PARKLAND, Fla. – An entire community came together Thursday night at a vigil remembering the 17 victims of the school shooting in South Florida.

At least 1,000 people packed the Parkland Amphitheater as the vigil began with a moment of silence for those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Audible sobs rose from the crowd as the names of victims were read.

It was an emotional evening. Many were visibly upset, but others said they were comforted by the overwhelming amount of support that came from all over Florida. 

"I did know a couple of the students who passed away. They were on my son's basketball team," parent Robert Katz told News4Jax. "It's something I don't wish on anyone."

Katz said his son was inside the school when gunfire erupted.

"He was in a classroom next door to where the shooter was," Katz said. "He heard the gunshots and he was texting me as it was happening."

Nicole Healey was one of the many students who attended the vigil.

"I witnessed two people die right in front of me," Healey said. "It was really horrible."

She shared her mixed emotions about the service. 

"It's good that people can come together, but it's bad that this is what it took for them to come together," Healey said.

Nicole Jorger was friends with Martin Duque, who was one of the students killed.

"He was a good friend," she said. "He had a good heart and he could make anyone smile."

The sea of candles at the vigil lit up the night sky, creating a powerful image of the amount of support from the community.

"The response is absolutely incredible and I'm proud to be a resident of Parkland," student Alex Wind said. 

IMAGES: Thousands attend vigil for school shooting victims

"Even people from other schools are here," said student Ethan Kaufman. "There are just no word to describe how special this makes our community feel."

Dressed in the school's colors, some held flowers while others wielded signs asking for action to fight school violence, including gun control.

"Things have to change," Kaufman said. "This is the only generation to know this kind of pain. So something has to be done about this because it's unacceptable."

Throughout the crowd of people, students could be heard sharing stories and memories about the classmates who they lost. 

The vigil ended with a request for everyone to write one specific act of good that they would perform in the coming days and weeks as a way to channel the raw emotions of the night into something positive.

Now, family members who lost loved ones and the entire community begin the healing process.

One parent said it starts with prayer for the victims' families.

"I'm praying for you and I'm truly sorry for your loss," John Calila said. "I couldn't imagine what it feels like. Just stay strong and have faith."

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