Jacksonville teacher says Parkland high school was 'safe place' to grow up

Kindergarten teacher graduated from Stoneman Douglas High in 2006

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville kindergarten teacher was shocked this week when her high school alma mater was tragically thrust into the national spotlight.

Ashley Lemay, who teaches at River City Science Academy, graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2006.

The South Florida school was the site of a mass shooting Wednesday that left 17 adults and children dead and a community reeling.

Lemay said the area is so small that when people asked where she was from, she would always say the Fort Lauderdale or Boca Raton area, because no one knew where Parkland was.

Now, they do, she said, for all the wrong reasons.

“It was a very safe place. I would go there every single day and come home every single day, and I never thought that, you know, that would happen there at all,” Lemay said.

She said seeing social media videos taken by students during the shooting has been disturbing because she walked the halls where students became targets and learned in the classrooms where they hid from the gunfire, hoping for rescue.

“I actually have to drive with the radio off sometimes and limit my social media, because it’s just really tragic to watch and to watch it unfold,” Lemay said. “It’s really difficult.”

She said she knew assistant football coach Aaron Feis, whose been credited with sacrificing himself to save a student during the shootings.

“It’s really tragic,” Lemay said. “It should never have happened.”

As she processes her own grief, Lemay said she is happy to see the support coming from her new school home in North Florida.

Teachers and students at River City Science Academy came to school wearing maroon, the Stoneman Douglas High School color, as a sign of support and solidarity.

Students also wrote letters of support to send to students in south Florida.

“I can only imagine how hard it must be to continue your daily lives,” sixth-grader Lilly Leatherbarrow wrote. “I’m sorry for your losses, and I will be thinking about you constantly.”

Students said they've been discussing the shooting in their classes as Lemay said she and her colleagues work to spread a message of love and kindness to counter the tragedy.

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