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  • The Valentine's Day No Mom Should Ever Have...
  • Post author
    Alyse Zunino

The Valentine's Day No Mom Should Ever Have...

The Valentine's Day No Mom Should Ever Have...

I took a break from Gypsy Ragazza to attend to my family and my community.  I have been emotionally struggling with the reality that unfolded right before me and my community.   


There is a story being written for my kids and along with many other parents who live in Parkland, Florida, we’d like to see to it that there is a happier ending.


On Valentine’s day I woke up as the happiest, luckiest mom in the world.  My husband and my boys gave me their Valentines… I drank my coffee, and my boys presented me with a poster they had spent hours working on.  It was beautiful, it read..”We Love Mommy!” I got to explain to my kids about how Valentine’s day is a celebration of Love.


We are grateful for each other, we are kinder to one another.  We celebrate the universal language of love and what it means. It was a day where people came together despite differences and celebrated the one thing we all have in common, the ability to love.   I told them that today will be one of the best days at school, as they will receive valentines and candy from their friends and teachers.


Each of us went off to work and school that day extra happy and carefree, looking forward to a day full of love and fun.  I drove by MSD that day, like everyday, and saw the students walking to school, carrying balloons, wearing vibrant reds and pinks - radiating love.  I reminisced to when I walked the halls of my high school. The singing valentines, hallways filled with balloons, the carnations that would randomly be delivered in class, it was filled with an abundance of love and light.  It was one of my best days of school when I was a kid.


Throughout the day I envisioned picking up my boys and making a kick ass dinner, they’re favorite - spaghetti and homemade meatballs.   Getting the chance to go through all their valentines and snagging a few pieces of candy. Listening to their stories from the day and even trying to see if they were able to steal a kiss or two.


But it would turn out to be far from what I envisioned  and far from loving. It would actually turn out to be a nightmare.


Never in a million years did I ever think I would have to deal with the horrors that unfolded for my friends, neighbors and the entire community that day.


I was at work when my husband, Dominic,  sent me a text stating that the Parkland schools were on Lockdown due to a shooting at MSD.  I froze for a second not fully accepting that this was reality.


Numb and shocked, I immediately left my office and bee-lined straight for their Pre-School, which sits less than a mile on the same street as MSD.


Parkland was on lockdown. You could not even go close to any of the schools. The racing thoughts, fears and the unknown haunted me. I met my husband at a local Starbucks to wait it out to see when we would be able to enter the streets that surround our community.  At that point, the suspect was not obtained. The agony of knowing that the shooter was still at large and my children sat in school not even a mile away was unbearable. Once we found out that they had the gunman, we made the drive back to Parkland. It took us 2 hours to drive 10 miles.


Throughout the drive I saw children and parents reuniting, everywhere.   It was bittersweet. They were dropping to the floor hugging and crying. Tears were running down my face witnessing these moments mixed with love and fear.   We made it to our house where we impatiently waited until we received a text from the school that the lockdown had been lifted. However, the streets were shut down and it felt like mission impossible to get to the kids.  We finally got the boys around 6 o’clock. My husband and I agreed to act normal, like nothing - like the day was as I had described it earlier, filled with an abundance of love.  But, now, just with loud annoying helicopters.


My home is about a 2-minute walk to MSD.  So, we were practically at ground zero. My husband and I finally got our kids home, we were both so shaken up as we learned of how the afternoon unfolded and continuous horrific information still coming in.  The sound of helicopters overhead was loud and constant. Helicopter races to the kids. But horror and agony to us.


We tried to assist the triage tents as best as we could. My husband brought cases of water for the would-be hero first responders and medical staff who were working through the night.


My kids went to bed that night after eating their Valentine’s Day Candy for dinner. Why NOT?  I had to try to make everything normal for them. I went through their handmade valentine day boxes and read each valentine to them out loud.   They laughed and I cried, silently. I was able to hide my tears, as I hid behind my sunglasses that night. I did not want to upset or put fear into the hearts of my babies on a day that I had just explained to them was all about love, unity and kindness.


I still have not explained everything to them.  I won’t. Not right now and not anytime soon. I asked them how was their day and they said, “We played the closet game” and they talked about the “helicopter races” that went on around our house and their school throughout the day.    This made me sick to my stomach. But not as sick as the feeling of knowing some of my neighbors would not even get to hold their child again.


My biggest question is how do I tell my kids, that we moved to Parkland to be safe and that this event unfolded right in our backyard at their future high school ….on Valentine’s Day.  How am I going to reassure them that this will never happen again? When in my heart there is no assurance.


Never in a million years did I ever think I would be dealing with a school shooting.  Those types of events did not happen in a close knit, family oriented, town like Parkland.


My boys have watched a  football game at MSD, and thanks to my Dad’s friend, coach Hixon, they were even allowed to go on the field.  The next time my kids go to that field, Mr. Hixon will not be there to greet them, and that is only some of what I am struggling with how to tell them…


The days that followed still had helicopters buzzing overhead which created anxiety and fear.  I didn’t sleep. I went to the local Publix to get Zzzquil and they were all sold out - another dose of reality.  


My husband and I delivered trays of food to our neighbors who were affected directly. Checking in on them to ensure they knew they had a place to go or someone to talk to or just to be with someone.  It’s the least we could do.


The candle light vigils and the countless offerings from people all over the country have been pouring in and collecting at the school and the park literally minutes from my home.  

My kids think that we are “Celebrating the Angels” citywide.  As there is a new memorial or garden planted almost every day.  Flower beds with MSD have sprung up all over Parkland. Their view of the landscape changes on the way to school daily.  

 

Now, there is something different about this tragedy.  Something that is beginning to give me more clarity and a lot of pride and filling me with hope. I am sure you can feel it too.


It’s the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  They’re resilient and by far the most intelligent group of kids that I have encountered.   There is greatness in these kids, a respect for humanity, and an unstoppable drive that is contagious.  They are creating a wave that I want to be part of.


I am very proud to hear them speaking up to Politicians and Demanding that things change.  It is necessary – It is time and I support them.


I would like my kids to grow up the way that I did.  We never had to worry about code red shootings in school.  School was a place for learning and for being a kid. We had fun there. No teacher should have to fear going to work.  No teacher should have to stand in front of our kids with fear in their heart.


I am proud of these amazing kids for speaking up and demanding a safer world.  I will attend the March for Our Lives here in Parkland on March 24th, to support the victims, the kids, the teachers and our community.  


Waking up in the morning, I have a choice- I can sit, cry and worry like the days following Feb 14, or I can wake up, be proud, join the movement and stand up for the future of my children and their children.  


The explanation that my household will have for what happened on Valentine’s Day 2018 will not be a sad one.  This entire community is going to see to that.


I am supporting the March for Our Lives so that when I explain to my kids that they are going to go to the same school where the horrible shooting on Valentine’s Day occured, this story is going to end with how the kids stood up for what they believed in and made a change.


They are going to go to the same school where those bright amazing kids changed things.  And they will know that they can also be inspirational and change things too.

 


So,  I will be participating  in the March for Our Lives campaign.   Gypsy Ragazza will also be donating 15% of all monthly proceeds.  I will continue to give back and help my community and make an impact on our children’s future.  And that this tragic, horrific event creates a happier story for the Victim’s families, my neighbors, and all of our kids, not just the kids here in Parkland, but for children everywhere.

#parklandstrong #douglasstrong #change

 

  • Post author
    Alyse Zunino

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