By Bryan Boggiano

Congress members, local officials, and families of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting victims took an intense tour of the 1200 Building and held a school safety roundtable discussion on Friday.

This marked a pivotal moment in ongoing school safety and gun violence prevention conversations.

The group, led by Reps. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL-23) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-26) walked through the 1200 building and campus, starting around 8 a.m.

Their walk-through came before the tragedy’s scheduled reenactment, which was scheduled for Friday afternoon. The reenactment is part of a civil hearing against former SRO Scot Peterson, whom a jury acquitted of criminal liability.

The idea for the event can be traced back to Max Schachter, the grieving father of victim Alex Schachter. He intended to expose elected officials to the crime scene, galvanizing local, state, and federal change.

“I walked through that building a month ago, and I came out of there, and I was angry,” Max said. “I said, ‘I have to have every member of Congress walk through this building.’”

Moskowitz publicly invited all his United States House of Representatives colleagues to MSD. Those who participated were Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL-20), Madeleine Dean (D-PA-4), Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA-44), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL-28), John Rutherford (R-FL-5), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24).

“I know we can figure out a way to make sure other families don’t become part of this exclusive club that these [families] were involuntarily drafted into,” Moskowitz said.

Following the walk-through, family members and congresspeople participated in a school safety roundtable discussion with Licata and officials from the State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Education in the ballroom of the Heron Bay Marriott. They discussed gun violence prevention, school safety, and mental health awareness, among other topics.

Family members who participated in the events include Jennifer and Tony Montalto, Max Schachter, Lori, and Ilan Alhadeff, and Debbi Hixon, among others. Multiple school board members, including superintendent Peter Licata, also joined.

“It’s important to be able to talk together, not in a political setting, but just in a realistic setting of people who’ve been affected, people who can make a change, and what it looks like to make situations better for our communities,” Debbi Hixon said.

The roundtable room’s significance is also eerie. It is where the family members of the victims learned their fates.

That night, Moskowitz made his way to the ballroom, observed their reactions, and made it his priority to be the voice of change. He invited his colleagues in the State House of Representatives to MSD. 

“When these events happen, you watch it on TV, you see it from 1,000 feet away, you don’t see what happens when a school is turned into a warzone,” Moskowitz said. 

His actions resulted in the passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act. Still, lawmakers agreed more needed to be done. 

Diaz-Balart said the issue of school safety, in particular, is one that needs significant bipartisan focus and actions from Washington, D.C. He said while he dreaded going to the site of the tragedy, he was glad he did.

“The key here is to not just to come and see; the key is can we then put away, put aside some differences, put aside ‘the perfect’ to try to get some good things done,” Diaz-Balart said.

Lori Alhadeff, the mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, said it is also important for teachers to be involved in conversations and lawmaking efforts. 

“Your voice is your power, so I encourage our teachers to absolutely have conversations with their elected officials and tell them what they believe because they are boots on the ground to know how to keep [students] safe,” she said. 

Families of the victims hope Friday’s events inspire conversations and action.

Tony Montalto said the bipartisan group now has a shared experience of seeing the site of the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history. This, he hopes, gives the tragedy a new meaning.

“It’s different when you’re looking at a puddle of blood when you’re listening to a family member say, ‘this is where my child died,’” he said. “And you talk about the heroes that came in and tried to save the kids and how and where they died. Those are impactful stories.”

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Author Profile

Bryan Boggiano
Bryan Boggiano
A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan plans to pursue geosciences at Florida International University for his master's. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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