Valentine's Day marked one year since the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen lives were lost.

We live to the south of the school, and it remains one of our top contenders for enrolling our sons, 11 and 6, when they reach high school age.

As you can imagine, our community processed that day with more shock and dread than other regions of the United States or around the world. 

We had seen the news coverage of previous shootings: Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook. But this time, we could also see the horror in our neighbors' eyes and feel the pain in our friends' hearts.

The following day was a Thursday, and the weather was perfect in South Florida, a place where most days are beautiful.

In my workplace, like many in the area, there's a coworker in every direction who has a kid at that school. All of our employee's kids were safe, we had confirmed. 

At lunchtime I headed outside, seeking a little alone time after spending the morning with colleagues, mourning the victims and waiting on every incoming news update.

I drove up the road to a small eatery and sat outside on the patio to soak up the weather and clear my head.

I texted my wife, who told me how difficult it was to send our 4th grader off to school that morning. She almost kept driving. Almost couldn’t let him go.

Earlier, as I took our younger son to his school, I knew his kindergarten teacher wouldn’t be there. Her son was one of the first kids to safely flee the school when the shooting started, texting her as he did, making her one of the first people outside the campus to learn of what was going on.

It wasn't until a week later that she returned to teaching. I remember thinking how hard it would be for her to let her son go back to that high school again. 

But ultimately, she did. 

As I finished my lunch, I could hear in the distance the unmistakable sounds of kids playing on a preschool playground. Shrieks of joy and mischief, without a care in the world.

I started thinking about the world that awaits them. The world into which their parents must let them go.

A parent’s hopes and fears have always shared the same limitless imagination.

But during those tragic days last year, a real fear gripped our community in unimaginable expanse, enough to darken a cloudless Florida sky.

Yet we parents must imagine a better world and never stop acting until we’ve made it so.

Then fill ourselves and our children with hope.

And let them go.

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Written by Slade Wentworth

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