Pictures of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting hang on the entrance to the football stadium at Msgr. Edward Pace High. In the background stands a cross with the purple drapes of Lent.

Parkland remembrance turns personal for Pace High student

At school walkout in memory of victims, students also told you are not ‘too young’


MIAMI GARDENS | On the morning of March 14, hundreds of students, faculty and staff of Msgr. Edward Pace High School lined up along the track of Jones Field at the Spartan football stadium. They joined in solidarity with schools across the country honoring the victims of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

At the service, a Bible verse from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminded all of “a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” For Karissa Herrera, a senior at Pace, those words could not have been more literal.

“I knew Jaime. She danced with me a long time ago,” said Karissa.

At age 8, Karissa met Jaime Guttenberg, then 4, in dance class. Over time and with a change in dance studios, Karissa lost touch with Jaime. But in February of this year, they rejoiced as they reconnected, promising to get together over an upcoming weekend to catch up.

Sadly, the gathering never happened. Jaime was among the 17 victims of the shootings in Parkland Feb. 14.

“When I heard that it happened at her school, I kind of freaked out, hoping that she was OK,” said Karissa. She had no way of directly contacting her friend because Jaime had recently changed her cell phone number. Later, the news reported that Jamie was among the dead.

“It’s hard because you know somebody for so long,” said Karissa. “They’re here one minute and they are gone the next. … She was very bright and always smiling.”

Karissa said she admires the vitality of the students of Stoneman Douglas High, whose calls for stricter gun laws and safer schools have reached local, state and even national leaders like President Donald Trump

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young,” said Andres Novela, director of campus ministry at Pace.

“People fail to see that we are the future,” said Karissa. “Even though we’re just kids, we have strong minds and we know what we’re talking about. Even though we do mess up sometimes, we’re still here. We still have voices, we still have eyes, we’re able to see stuff that many other people can’t see, and we’re focused on the next thing that is going to happen.”

At the Pace walkout, small bios of each victim were read. Prayers were sent up, too: for acceptance of souls, both young and older, into heaven; prayers of rest for the heroes that protected the helpless; prayers for a safer, peaceful world; and prayers of compassion and connectivity across the world.

“We need to remember to pray and to stand,” said Novela. “The lives of those lost are not forgotten. We carry them with us through our day and through our daily lives. Let us continue to stand. Let us continue to speak. Let us continue to pray and let us continue to be united as one family, one community.” n