PARKLAND, Fla. — As a team of volunteers began dismantling the sprawling display of balloons, flowers and teddy bears left in memory of the 17 people gunned down at a Florida high school, students and officials met Wednesday to talk about how to keep gun control in the spotlight after Saturday's marches.
Mounds of mementos surrounding 17 white crosses outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were being packed into boxes for storage. A friend helped Patricia Padauy sift through handwritten notes and tributes left to honor her slain son, Joaquin Oliver.
Objects from the memorial will be preserved in climate-controlled rooms for a future public exhibit on the anniversary of the Valentine's Day massacre.
Parkland Historical Society President Jeff Schwartz said the initial goal is to get the items indoors after more than a month of being exposed to sun, heat and rain. Flowers and plants will be composted; the other items will be catalogued and saved.
Just a few miles away, county and city officials announced a new organization to push for gun reform and to keep momentum going past Saturday's worldwide marches.
The group 17 For Change says its main goals are advocating for sensible gun laws, educating voters on gun reform and holding politicians accountable for how they vote and money they accept from the NRA and other gun lobbyists. The group spearheaded by the county's vice mayor includes a student panel with teens from various area schools.
Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed at Stoneman Douglas, read a haunting poem she'd written in her daughter's voice. Alhadeff has become an outspoken advocate for gun reform and helped successfully pass a new law in New Jersey. She's also leading a crusade to make schools safer, saying that should be the top priority ahead of state testing and even school grades.
"If one child dies on the school's watch, nothing else matters. That school has failed every student," she said.
Douglas juniors Adam Buchwald and Zach Hibshman are also asking every parent and grandparent in the nation to sign a contract promising to vote only for lawmakers who chose lives over guns and turn down money from the NRA. Saturday's marches were just the beginning, said 16-year-old Buchwald, one of the founders of Parents Promise To Kids.
"We are giving children a voice," Buchwald said. "If their parents sign this contract they will be heard in this election."