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A view of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
A view of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber

Trumps Meets With MSD Families as After Parkland Documentary Nears Release

Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Parkland. Never Again. March for Life. No More.

All words and phrases that bring to mind the tragedy on February 14, 2018, when a teenaged gunman walked into Douglas High and murdered 17 students, wounded 17 more, and changed the lives of an entire community.

All in six minutes and 20 seconds.

Who knows how long the murderer prepped for the siege or what contributed to his malice? More important to the families of the victims is to bring about a change that will make students feel safe again going to school. Not just at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but all schools across the nation. Too many already had experience with similar tragedies before the Douglas shooting happened. Many since have also come to know the impact of gun violence.

With the ABC-produced documentary After Parkland set for release in cities across the U.S. on Wednesday, two days ahead of the second anniversary of the mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida high school, President Donald Trump met on Monday with some of the families of victims to discuss potential safety measures.

TheHill.com reported late Monday afternoon on the Oval Office meeting between Trump and members of Stand with Parkland, an advocacy group made up of some of the families affected by the MSD shooting who are pressing for public safety reforms to help prevent school shootings.

The group, while made up of some MSD families affected by the February 14, 2018 shooting, sent select members to the White House meeting, which focused on the School Safety Clearinghouse, a project centered on safety measures that attack the potential for shootings by, among other approaches, designing buildings differently.

Manuel Oliver, father of MSD shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, has been on a mission since his son was slain.
Manuel Oliver, father of MSD shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, has been on a mission since his son was slain.
Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber

The White House meeting coincided with Monday's launch of the federal School Safety Clearinghouse, posted online at SchoolSafety.gov. A Department of Education press release on the launch features quotes from no less than four of Trump's cabinet leaders — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, acting head of Homeland Security Alex Wolf, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Attorney General William Barr.

After Parkland, which was screened at Savor Cinema on January 22, was initially released in 2019 after filmmakers Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman screened it for MSD families.

The documentary opens with Andrew Pollack talking about his daughter, Meadow. It continues with heart-stopping footage of David Hogg recording what is happening in real time as the shooter moves through the school. It moves on to Sam Zeif and the fear he had for his brother, who was inside the school but in a different area. Then the film brings in Joaquin Oliver's father, Manual, and Joaquin's girlfriend, Tori.

In following the story and interviewing families and community members, Taguchi and Lefferman's major concern was not re-traumatizing those who were already emotionally raw.

“Meeting the students and families were some of the most difficult interviews I have done. I was astonished at how articulate the students were. It was emotionally intense,” Taguchi says.

“We wanted to get right what [the families] told us,” Lefferman says. “We felt it was a mission to represent [them] as best we could on screen. They trusted us with sensitive and raw feelings.”

The movie is peppered with news footage of Douglas students and their fight for more comprehensive gun regulation. Though opinions about what needs to be done vary greatly among those in the film, Andrew Pollack sums the issue up nicely, saying: “It's not about taking away guns. It's about making our schools safe.”

David Hogg continues to fight gun violence in poor communities. He's become an activist for those who need a voice. “We have a system that actively suppresses the voice of our youth and poor people. And those people deserve a voice,” Hogg says in the film.

Brooke Harrison survived the shooting at MSD on February 14, 2018. Three classmates didn't.
Brooke Harrison survived the shooting at MSD on February 14, 2018. Three classmates didn't.
Photo by Emily Taguchi

Brooke Harrison was in the same room as three classmates who were killed in the shooting. As the second anniversary approaches, she feels she has come a long way. “On a personal level, I'm dealing better with the PTSD. It's not as bad as it used to be, I don't have as many flashbacks."

“What's amazing about this film is you see us change over time. You see us all find our voice and find help — I think the film is beautiful," Harrison says. "This shooting opened up a whole different world for me. The shooting has shaped me as a person. I have to rebuild and am a lot stronger now. You find a new normal, you have to adapt.”

Harrison also says she fears people will dismiss After Parkland as a political film. “Go in with an open mind. It's not a political film. It is about the growth as we tried to find different ways to cope. Don't give me criticism for how I deal with this. It's important to hear what I have to say. No one should ever have to go through what we did. Get uncomfortable — do something to make a change.”

What Lefferman and Taguchi hope the public sees in the movie is how the families coped in the aftermath. “We hope that folks can get a glimpse of what these families went through. We hope this film can build a conversation, get folks talking about a solution,” Lefferman says.

“This issue affects all of us in this country — it is an equal[-opportunity] destroyer,” Taguchi says. “These families will have to live with forever. We hope it opens dialogues.”

After Parkland is set for release on Wednesday, February 12, in more than 100 U.S. cities as part of the commemoration of the second anniversary of the shooting. For more information, visit bit.ly/afterparkland. The documentary will be available for streaming starting February 19 on Hulu.

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