Florida school shooting survivors visit Sept. 11 museum

NEW YORK – Clustered around a screen to the Sept. 11 museum, a group of high school students enrolled with a message that began, “#neveragain.”

The sentiment fits, where they were, but also where they come from: the Florida school, where a gunman killed 17 people last month.

The marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wind Symphony are scheduled on Wednesday to visit a long time ago, after getting invited to perform in a high school band showcase on Tuesday at Carnegie Hall. But the trip to the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City has a deeper personal dimension after the Feb. 14 rampage at the school in the Park, Florida.

“The museum itself is a proof of the ability to be resilient, as Americans,” said senior Ridley Hutton, 17. “What happened in my house is just a example of.”

“It is proof that no matter what happens, we come back,” he said.

Approximately 60 marjory Stoneman Douglas students were given a guided tour of the museum that recalls the deadliest terrorist attack on AMERICAN soil. They were babies or not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists destroyed the occupied World Trade Center towers, but the line between 9/11 and their loss was not abstract. One of their slain classmates, Jaime Guttenberg, was a cousin of a doctor who worked in the rescue effort at ground zero.

And there was the emotional connection that museum, member of the board of Howard Lutnick to the students this way: “Unfortunately, I know how you feel. I wish I didn’t.”

Lutnick, CEO of the financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald lost more than 650 colleagues on Sept. 11, including his brother, Gary.

After such a loss, “everyone has no idea of what you have to say, and everything they say is wrong,” say: “time heals all wounds” when it is only days, he said to the students.

“There is no silver lining,” Lutnick said. “What there is, is an extraordinary youth who has a horrible experience … and then use it to live a more understand of the life.”

His words resonated with senior Mackenzie Hurst, 17. “It is fun to be with the people who you understand,” she said.

The Wind Symphony was rehearsing in a band room for the Carnegie Hall concert as gunfire sounded nearby. The wind ensemble is a part of a larger marching band, which lost two freshmen members in the massacre: Alex Schachter, a trombone and baritone player, and Gina Montalto, a member of the color guard. Both were 14.

Suspicious Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student, was formally charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and other crimes. Cruz’s lawyer has said that the suspect is guilty will plead, if prosecutors agree that he does not have the death penalty. They have not yet announced a decision.

While the developments in court played in Florida, the wind ensemble students quietly took in the remnants of the twin towers and a number of other artifacts from the Sept. 11, although their tour skipped galleries filled with victims’ personal items.

“Come here, kind of zooms in, makes us think of small details” of the attack in the Park, said senior Ryan Lewert, 17.

The story of the firemen who rushed into danger on Sept. 11 reminded him of assistant football coach Aaron Feis, hailed as a hero for shielding of the students during the shooting at the cost of his own life. Sophomore Jessica Gargaro, 15, found herself thinking of the tribute to the dead at her high school, when she saw in the museum the projections of a number of the missing person posters that papered New York after the attacks.

Some students said they felt the museum visit and their performance had taken on a special meaning in the aftermath of the shooting.

Still, Hutton said: “I would give anything for a normal trip.”

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