By Jill Fox
Following the school shooting on February 14, a number of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have appeared on television and in the media. However, English teacher and yearbook advisor Sarah Lerner felt that it was important to give the rest of the survivors a voice.
In a new book, Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories, readers will explore creative writings from the students’ voices, including poems, journal entries, short essays, artwork and photography related to the events of February 14.
“I was really glad to be able to give these kids an outlet to express themselves. They weren’t out there in the forefront and they have a voice too,” said Lerner.
After presales, as well as much anticipation, the book will be released on January 22 and readers can meet Lerner and a panel of student contributors when they discuss the book on Wednesday, January 23, at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Coral Springs.
Although it’s her fifth year teaching at MSD, Lerner has been a part of the Parkland community since 1995. She’s a graduate of J.P. Taravella High School and has a son attending Westglades and a daughter at Maplewood Elementary.
After the massacre on February 14, which killed 17 students and staff members, Lerner was approached by the senior editor at Random House to help create an anthology to share survivors’ stories. Flattered and honored to be chosen for the project, Lerner helped determine the book’s format and selected the writings, acting as a liaison between the publisher and the student contributors.
“I tried to reach out to students that I knew had something to say,” said Lerner.
Unlike previous books, this one, made up mostly from student contributions, focuses on creative writing from the students’ voices. There are pieces from two teachers as well as from Lerner herself.
The book contains essays from many different perspectives: from students who were inside of the classrooms in the 1200 building, to testimony from those injured, stories from teens who lost friends, and even photos of the students working with therapy dogs, which were brought on campus after school resumed.
“We really tried to cover a broad spectrum to show the readers that yes this happened to us, this is how we felt and this is how we are moving forward. It was important to give students the opportunity to fully express that,” said Lerner.
This is not the first book written by an MSD teacher. A book was released in October, Never Again, by two other teachers. Never Again covered the school shooting from a journalistic standpoint, while this collection of stories are told through a different lens.
According to Lerner, the school community is benefiting from this book, as a portion of the proceeds will fund SHINE MSD. Lerner said that it seemed natural to give back to an organization which started at the school to promote healing through art and creativity since this book was written with a creative writing style.
She said that the contributors are proud of the raw and real message that it sends.
“I hope that whether someone from Parkland or Coral Springs is reading the book, or someone in Topeka, Kansas, they see what we went through and how something like this affects people beyond the obvious effects that it has.”
Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She is currently a Senior Account Director at Lon Haber & Co., a leading full-service public relations firm. Fox worked at NBC Miami for eight years after graduating from the University of Miami. She lives in Parkland with her husband, Brian and two children.