By: Carly Levy
It has been only two months since Lori and Ilan Alhadeff lost their daughter Alyssa during the school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Still grieving over their loss, they have pledged to make schools safer for children by creating a nonprofit organization that not only will honor Alyssa’s memory but will use strategic measures to make sure schools are safe.
Just one day after the school shooting, the nation will always remember Lori in her moment of grief when she cried on CNN, “I just spent the last two hours putting the funeral arrangements for my daughter’s funeral, who’s 14. President Trump, please do something. Do something! Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now!”
Ilan told NBC that part them died that day. “My daughter was shot that day in the heart, the spine, in the femur and artery. If she lived, she would have been paralyzed for life. No parent should have to deal with this again. No family.”
A freshman at the high school, Lori shared that Alyssa was a well-rounded teenager who lived life to the fullest. She loved boys, makeup, doing her hair, and playing soccer. She also did well in school. Having already earned 17 credits towards her high school diploma, she was already planning to take pre-calculus and Spanish IV in her sophomore year. Alyssa liked to hang out with her friends and watch the sun rise and set in Long Beach Island, NJ where she would visit her grandparents each summer.
As well as being intelligent and creative, Lori shared that Alyssa, like most teenagers, was extremely messy. “She couldn’t be bothered with cleaning things up because she just constantly went from one activity to the next activity,” she said.
She recalled a story when Alyssa had trouble finding her Spanish textbook and texted her mom from school to find it for her.
“I go up to her room and I trash her room,” laughed Lori. “I throw everything off her desk, her bed, her dresser. Literally a complete mess.”
When Alyssa came home and saw the mess, she filmed her own reaction and as payback, she sprayed perfume all over her mother’s clothes and bed. Her mother looked back at the thought of how awful that perfume smelled.
Before she died, Alyssa texted her mother and told her she found the textbook, however, it wasn’t until after Alyssa died, that Lori found two Spanish textbooks hiding in her room: one that was borrowed and the other Alyssa found. Lori laughed at finding the extra book in her daughter’s room, sadly, unable to share the discovery with her daughter.
Along with playing soccer for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Parkland Travel teams, Alyssa volunteered a few times at a homeless shelter making cookies for the kids.
“She would talk to the little kids, pick them up, walk them over to the cookies, and start decorating the cookies with the children,” said Lori. “She just did it on her own.”
Alyssa left behind two brothers who, like the rest of the family, are taking life after Alyssa’s death one day at a time.
While they cannot change what happened on February 14, they are working to implement new safety measures. In March, the State of New Jersey, where the family is from, passed “Alyssa’s Law” which requires all public elementary and secondary schools to be equipped with a panic alarm for use in a school security emergency. The alarm, which would not be audible within the school building, would be directly linked to local law enforcement and immediately transmit a signal or message to the authorities upon activation.
In Florida, the Alhadeff’s organization Make Schools Safe Inc. will have a “Dream Team Club” in each school whose objective is to be the voice, and to tackle hot topic issues with peers. This will include educating others on social media issues, bullying, and also performing good deeds by handing out slips of paper with Alyssa’s photo on it to their peers throughout the year. Donated funds will be given to the Broward County schools that the foundation plans to work with, and soccer scholarships will be awarded as well.
Lori is working with SOS Parkland who is working directly with the Broward county public schools
Make Schools Safe also plans on implementing safety practices in Parkland schools through inspections. Lori said she will be working along with a group called SOS Parkland to get meaningful security assessments completed. The money Make Schools Safe raises will go back to school safety.
Her hope is that parents stay vigilant on their child’s social media and limit them from playing violent video games.
“I think it’s important for administrators and lawmakers to make sure that school safety is tough and things need to be happening now,” said Lori. “Every child deserves to go to school and be safe…and not have to fear being shot down and killed.”
On May 11, Make Schools Safe Inc. will have a fundraiser at the Parkland Tennis Center where there will be a tennis match, luncheon, boutique shopping, and raffles. While tickets are now sold out, sponsors are still needed. To register to be a sponsor, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail check by April 20th payable to Make Schools Safe PO Box 119, 5944 Coral Ridge Drive, Coral Springs, FL 33076. To donate, please go to Make Schools Safe Inc.
Sharon Aron Baron contributed to this article.