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Community Mourns At Candlelight Vigil After Deadly School Shooting

Thousands gathered for a candlelight vigil in Parkland, Fla., to honor the memory of the 17 people killed on Wednesday when a gunman opened fire at a local high school.

There were tearful remembrances at the Pine Trails Park Amphitheater, as well as open sobbing, and at one point, some in the crowd erupted into a chant of "No more guns!"

According to police, a former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, arrived at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with an AR-15 rifle and "countless magazines" of ammunition. He began his shooting rampage outside the school and then moved inside, killing 17 students and staff members.

"This is our home and this is where we will not be intimidated by evil," senior class president Julia Cordover said after reading the names of the 17 people killed as others observed a moment of silence.

"We need to come together and be there for each other," she said.

The Sun-Sentinel said 8,000 people attended the vigil.

Frank Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old Jamie Guttenberg, who was killed on Wednesday, expressed anguish over his inability to protect his daughter.

"I sent her to school yesterday, and she was supposed to be safe," he said, choking back tears. "My job is to protect my children, and I sent my kid to school."

As Guttenberg began to cry, the crowd shouted back, "We love you!"

Parkland City Commissioner Grace Solomon told the crowd that she planned to go to the state capital, Tallahassee, next week and invited others to join her to press for action on guns.

"And we need every mom and every dad and every kid to show up there and stand together. Not just Parkland. I mean everyone. I mean the parents of Sandy Hook. It's time to say enough. This is enough," Solomon said to applause.

One attendee, freshman Hunter Frybergh, 14, said he survived the attack by hiding in a closet at the school.

"I can't get a shake out of my voice ... I [had a] nightmare last night where the shooter had a gun to my head," he tells North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann. "I just stared at my wall all night."

Even so, Hunter's father, Jason Frybergh, said he thinks it is too late for new gun restrictions to work.

"The AR-15s are out there, the ammunition is out there, the crazy people are out there," he told NPR. "This is the society we live in and we just have to get more diligent about protecting our citizens and it's not a joke."

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who grew up in Parkland and was a 2007 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke at the event.

"I played on those fields, I went to those classes. I studied in those classrooms. The same school we saw on videos yesterday for all the wrong reasons," he said, his voice quavering with emotion.

"I'm only who I am because of this community," he said. "I want you to know that you're not alone in your grief. We're all grieving with you — the entire country is grieving with you."

In a tweet on Thursday, Rizzo said: " [O]ur country is in desperate need for change. I hope In this darkest of times back home this brings everyone together and we can find love. You're all in my prayers."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.