Miami: Thousands attended a vigil to mourn the 17 victims who were slaughtered by a 19-year-old former student at a high school in Florida which had ousted him for indiscipline.
Nikolas Cruz carried out one of the worst mass shootings in US history at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday.
The mourners, who gathered at the Pine Trails Park, Parkland, on Thursday evening were moved to tears when the father of a 14-year-old girl, Jamie Guttenberg, one of the victims, spoke about her.
“Jamie was the light of the party,” he said, adding that after he lost his brother to cancer last year he thought the pain was unbearable but what he has experienced since he lost his daughter was infinitely worse.
He regretted that he did not say goodbye to his daughter when she left for school that morning and urged parents to hug and kiss their children every day and to tell them they love them.
Next to him on the stage, authorities and religious leaders appealed for unity in the face of this tremendous tragedy.
During the vigil, the mourners laid flowers and lit candles near pictures of the 17 victims and wrote messages of sympathy, support and hope.
There were also messages condemning the National Rifle Association, the powerful arms lobby in the country that is opposed to greater gun regulation in the country.
People held up posters that said “Enough is enough” and “NRA stop killing our children.”
Cruz had escaped after the bloodbath but was caught an hour later in the neighbouring Coral Spring city and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Wednesday’s shooting comes a year and half after a mass shooting in gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, also in Florida, that had killed 49.