#neverforget

I never really liked Valentine’s Day, you know, a holiday in which people gave cheesy cards to each other and went out for romantic dinners. All of that changed when I heard the news, there was a profound change in the way I thought of that day. February 14th was no longer a cheesy holiday, but a day which I would remember forever etched in my memory and heart. Exactly one year today we lost 17 beautiful, wonderful lives were cut short. 17 people who meant the world to someone, who were parents, children, friends, and colleagues. 17 people who did nothing to deserve the fate that followed. 17 people who were just going to school on a typical day but didn’t return home.
17 people were hopeful, who had dreams and ambitions, who were going fighting their own internal demons successfully, and people who were trying really hard to make someone proud even though everyone was already proud of them. Some people I knew through extracurricular activities and some who I met through other people.

I have heard people say that you don’t know what it is like, I mean I wasn’t even living in the same country. I may not know what it is like to have a gunman come and shoot down your school, but I do know what it is like to lose someone you love to gun violence.
I remember trying to reach my friend after the shooting. I remember calling everyone at 5 am to make sure they were okay. I remember skipping school to wait anxiously for a reply. And then I remember not getting a response, but instead an invitation to the funeral gofundme page.

We lost:
Scott Beigel, who was a geography teacher that was beloved by every student in the school

Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and a security guard who made everyone’s day

Chris Hixon, the school’s athletic director who helped many people find their love and passion for sports

Peter Wang, who was a proud member of the JROTC always lending a helping hand to anyone and everyone

Alyssa Alhadeff was the captain for a local soccer team where she was a leader who treated everyone equally and listened to everyone’s ideas

Martin Duque Anguiano, a freshman who was a hilarious, outgoing kid who was a friend for anyone in need

Nicholas Dworet, a high school student who was a promising swimmer who completely changed himself to become the person he was that day

Jaime Gutenberg, a freshmen dancer who was warm and took in people no matter who they are

Luke Hoyer, a baseball player who was really ambitious about the sport and admired many NBA starts, now people admire him

Cara Loughran, a freshman who loved the beach and made people happy by just being a happy girl

Gina Montalto, a freshman who was a praised member of the winter color guard and was an inspiration for many aspiring color guard participants

Joaquin Oliver, whose nickname was Guac and loved to write beautiful and expressive poetry while loving to play basketball

Alaina Petty, a freshman who loved to volunteer and help people out always ready to help no matter the circumstances she was in, never saying no to whatever was asked of her and always delivered on her promises

Meadow Pollack, a senior who was set to go to Lynn University, a girl who was strong-willed and an unbelievable amazing girl

Helena Ramsay was a smart, kind-hearted, and thoughtful human being although reserved she was entirely motivated to be the best she can

Alex Schachter, who played the trombone in the Stoneman Douglass marching band who just wanted to well in school and make his parents proud

Carmen Schentrup, a senior who was a national merit scholarship finalist, a smart soul who was a best friend so many people who was loved by many people and loved many people in return, she was someone who was a kind and beautiful person

These people did not die in vain, and I hope that these beautiful lives lost will cause change. This was a devastating event, and it is absolutely horrifying that something like this happened in our backyard and some people who were affected by this.
My prayers go out to all of those families who lost people, and I hope this changes something. This is not just a memoir to remember what happened, this is my cry for change as this is not an issue to be taken lightly. This is my way of paying respect to the 17 people who lost their lives. This is my way of making sure their story lives on.

Scars

“Perfect,” said the blonde-haired boy who stood next to me with a makeup brush in his right hand.

“Not perfect Jae,” I said slightly rolling my eyes. “You didn’t cover the scar,” my voice slightly dropped before the last word slipped my mouth. My delicate fingers wrapped around the glass bottle filled with concealer, pulling it out of my makeup bag. I applied the peachy liquid to my skin earning a disapproving stare from Jae.

“Why do you cake your face with all that makeup? You’ll look ugly anyway.” I finished fixing my face and rolled my eyes at his snarly comment and dusted my skirt.

“Buh- Bye,” I said turning and opening the beige colored door of my bedroom.

“BE BACK BEFORE MIDNIGHT!” Jae called plopping himself down on to my bed. I waved and left the room. I skipped down the spiral staircase in my house and made my way out of my home on to the porch.

I saw my date for the night; actually, the only date I’ve had in a long time. A fairly tall man with pale skin, jet black hair and blue eyes stood in front of a matte car. He perfectly paired a pair of black torn jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and a leather jacket. I straightened out my skirt and began to walk toward the man I’d be spending the next four hours with.

“Luna,” he greeted with excitement hinting his tone.

“Kai,” I said in a plain yet elevated voice.

“You look stunning,” he complimented.

“As do you,” I replied smiling.

He opened the passenger’s side door of the matte vehicle, gesturing for me to take a seat. He then made his way to the driver’s seat starting the automobile with a loud revving noise. The atmosphere was silent and tensed as we drove past a vast amount of buildings and were now on the road surrounded by greenery, unlike the streets of the city.

“Where are we going?” I asked breaking the awkward silence.

“It’s a surprise,” he said gripping the gear tighter. I somewhat shifted in my seat and pulled down the white skirt that was now riding up my mid-thigh. It was almost as if I was in a trance as I looked out the window; the viridescent post fall trees were growing fruit and flowers.

“We’re here,” whispered Kai leaning closer to me. I nodded as he unlocked the car with the swift flick of a switch. I opened the door, I looked to my feet as I stepped out of the vehicle to meet a breezy spring evening. My gaze shifted catching a glimpse of cherry blossoms lined alongside a white brick pathway meeting a bench at the end.

I opened the door, I looked to my feet as I stepped out of the vehicle to meet a breezy spring evening. My gaze shifted catching a glimpse of cherry blossoms lined alongside a white brick pathway meeting a bench at the end.

I stood in awe as I took in the unexpected beauty, “This was my surprise,” whispered the tall, jet-haired boy who stood next to me.

“They’re cherry blossoms,” I exclaimed. “I love cherry blossoms. The way they smell, their gorgeous color, just everything about them,” I shifted towards one of the trees, picking up a fallen petal and smelling it. “I remember, when Jae and I were younger, we would sit under trees like these and try to catch the flowers that would fall.”

Kai’s hand snaked around my waist, “This was my surprise to you that I really like you and I have liked you for a long time now.” My cheeks turned a bright magenta as I took his hand to run past all the sweet cherry blossom trees. He held my wrist pulling me back into his chest, I looked into his ocean blue eyes as he looked down into my hazel ones. Our faces were only inches apart when he leaned in. His rosy lips were millimeters away from mine, causing me to panic. I parted from his tight grip and pushed him away with all the force I could muster. I ran, I ran, and I ran.

Soon enough, I reached a location of which I was unfamiliar too. I immediately pulled out my phone from the front pocket of my floral purse. I scrolled through my contacts to find the only person I trust. I clicked on the white bar labeled ‘Jae’ and brought my phone closer to my ear. The phone started to ring as I unknowingly she a tear. The line went flat followed by a slight beep and a masculine voice.

“Luna?” I opened my mouth to speak, and to my surprise, I was unable to say anything. “Luna? Are you okay? Do you need help? I need you to say something.”

“Can you come to pick me up?” I weakly said as my voice quivered.

“Just tell me where you are.”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay then. Send your location to me.” I nodded my head at his last comment and listened as the line cut completely.

I closed my eyes as yet another tear-stained my cheek. Within the next minute, I was on the floor bawling my eyes out waiting for Jae’s car to arrive. Soon enough a red Ford Mustang pulled up close to the curb I was sitting upon. A man that was only about 4 inches taller than me stepped out, he looked closely at me as his blonde bangs covered his glasses.

“Don’t cry, Luna.” He sat next to me and pulled me into a hug. He kissed the top of my head as I sobbed into his chest. He pulled away from me and pushed my hair back and put it behind my ears. “Come on let’s get you into the car.” He picked me up bridal style and carried me to his car. He placed me in the front seat of his Mustang and clicked the seatbelt, securing me in my position. He started driving past the somewhat familiar route Kai had just driven me though.

After what felt like 15 minutes of driving, Jae finally spoke up. “What happened?” he questioned, his glasses falling to his nose, his eyes still fixed on the road.

“Nothing,” I said hiding my currently red eyes and puffy cheeks.

“Nothing? Seriously Luna, what is it?” he said in the calmest voice he could muster at the time.

“I SAID NOTHING!!! GOD STOP ACTING LIKE YOU CARE!!!” I yelled despite his understanding of the situation. I rolled my eyes and hid my face yet another time.

“I CARE!!! AND YOU KNOW WHAT? I AM NOT GOING DRIVE OR START THE CAR TILL YOU TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON!!! GOSH! IT’S LIKE YOU THINK I- LIKE YOU THINK I’M SOME SORT OF CREEP!!! IT’S LIKE YOU THINK I DON’T LIKE YOUR SCARS!!! OKAY?!? GUESS WHAT THE WORLD DOESN’T REVOLVE AROUND YOU SO STOP ACTING LIKE A COMPLETE AND UTTER BRAT AND STOP SEEKING ATTENTION BECAUSE I’M LISTENING NOW OKAY?!?! I’M LISTENING TO ALL THE CRAP YOU’VE GOT TO SAY; I’M LISTENING TO ALL YOUR BRATTY- ASS CRAP OKAY??? SO TELL ME!!! TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH YOU!!!”

I jumped at his sudden outburst of anger, frustration, sadness, etc.

“I am okay,” I said with a shaky breath wiping the tears away from my face. “I am okay,” I said repeatedly trying to control the shaking in my body.

“THAT’S IT!! I’M DONE WITH THIS AND WITH YOU!!” he scoffed. “PUH-LEASE ALL YOU WANT IS ATTENTION!! I’M DONE GIVING YOU ATTENTION!!” He got out of the car slamming the door behind him, causing the vehicle to shake. He paced to the trunk of the car and punched the red metal of the car, kicking at the tires. I curled up into a ball on the passenger’s seat of his car and put my head into my hands. I opened the door of the car and slowly placed my foot down onto the pavement, I pulled myself out of the car and walked towards Jae.

“What do you want? Because if it’s more attention, I’ve already given you all I had,” he said in almost a whisper, moving his hand away when I reached for it.

“I want to tell you. I want to tell you everything.” He looked toward me and scoffed.

“I’d like that,” he said leaning against the car with his back and sliding down, so he was sitting on the ground.

“The scars,” I started. “The ones on my face, they’re- they’re not there because I fell or any of the stupid, dumb excuses I’ve given you. They’re there because- because of my dad.” His eyes widened at my statement, but he quickly changed his expression, hoping I didn’t see it.

“My dad… he had different ways of punishing me for anything I had done. He had always had strict rules around the house but the rules, the consequences they had gotten worse as soon as my mother had passed away. He’d come home late and drunk; he’d beat me up until my thighs were bruised or until the cuts on my torso wouldn’t stop bleeding.” At this point, I knew Jae would never even talk to me after I finished the story. He looked at me, concern flashing through his blue pupils as he slowly brought his hand to my face to wipe the tear which had slipped out of the safety of my eyelashes.

“Hey it’s okay,” he said pulling my face to his so the both of us were looking into each other’s eyes. “I don’t care about all of that okay? I love you for you,” his voice was soothing, loving almost. His eyes stared into the depths of my hazel colored eyes.

“Well I think we should get home,” he broke the silence and tension between the both of us getting up off the road. He held his hand out and watched as I extended mine to grab his hand and pulled me up. He abruptly let go of my hand and trudged to the driver’s side of the car. He opened the door and lethargically slipped into the seat and started the car. I followed behind him, sat in the passenger’s seat fixing on my seat belt.

The ride home was long and treacherous, from time to time we could hear the noise of crickets chirping followed by the harsh sound of water splashing. After what had seemed like hours, we had finally reached my house. He parked the car, and I unbuckled my seatbelt getting ready to get out of the car. I opened the door ready to leave when Jae’s hand held my wrist. He pulled me back into the car, causing the door to close behind me.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered almost as if he didn’t want to say it. “It’s just that-,” he stopped. “You know what never mind, I’m just really sorry.”

“Okay,” I whispered back, earning a small smile from him. Both of us stared deeply into each other’s eyes as his large hand held mine. He slowly leaned in and cupped my face with both his hands.

“You are the best thing that has ever happened to me; I really do love you, Luna,” he said leaning in, so our foreheads were now together. His lips were only centimeters apart from mine, and I could feel his warm breath upon my chin. He slowly but surely closed the gap between us by hugging me and kissing my forehead.

“We are a mess, but we are going to be okay,” he said tucking a piece of hair behind my ear.

“We are going to be okay,” I repeated, sitting there in silence.

Mental Health Day

A few days ago was mental health day. Mental health is one of the most important aspects of life and it does not get talked about enough. So I just wanted to take time to raise some awareness about this topic that has so much stigma around it. I have been struggling with issues for a while now but I just want you to know that it does get better and that you will make it through. Please, just take it one day at a time.

Remember to breathe.

Remember that it is ok to take some time for yourself, to better yourself.

It’s ok to take time to take longer, deeper breaths.

It’s ok to get help in silencing irrational thoughts.

It’s ok to take time to calm yourself down and it’s ok to keep telling yourself you are ok even though you are barely making it through.

And you don’t need to apologize for it. 

The Demons

My throat hurts from yelling 

Yelling for help to save me from the demons in my head 

The demons that paint my vision with nothing but red 

The red of my blood gushing from my throbbing wrists 

The red that I so strongly desire to see every single day

The feeling of the sharpness and stinging that the demons inside my head consider vital for survival 

I want it to stop

I want it all to end, but it never does 

I yell at those demons telling them to go away

But the constant hissing and creeping with their long black nails haunt me every waking moment

Their old, dirty, gnarly hands cover my eyes with nothing but darkness 

And sometimes, just sometimes 

I see light 

So I reach out 

But the demons’ dirt dirty hands pull me back into the pit of never ending darkness 

What is Beauty

Beauty is one of the most arbitrary concepts. It is such a relative term, and I believe that is should not be a term at all. There is no definite definition of beauty because beauty has such a vast spectrum. For me, beauty is both inside and out. Just because a person does not have straight teeth, or has a little extra fat does not define them as ugly. Just because someone has perfect hair, or has perfect skin does not make them beautiful. Beauty should come from the inside. Someone who has a nice heart is beautiful, someone who loves and cares for other people is beautiful, someone who always tries to cheer others even though they are breaking is beautiful, someone who keeps trying no matter how many time they fail is beautiful, and someone who is just themselves is beautiful. That is the true meaning of beauty. There should be no criteria for judging beauty as it is not something that is for sale, it is not something that has an expiry date, and it is not something that should be judged. In all honesty, beauty means you as you are for what you are.  

On a more professional and less emotional note beauty is defined as anything that has form and function is beautiful.  This has nothing to do with the aesthetic beauty of an object, but more with the functionality of the specific thing in question; the more functional an item, the more beautiful. In that case, all humans are useful and therefore everyone is beautiful. 

The definition of beauty changes over the years, and sometimes that definition tends to put other people down. But that does not change the fact that everyone is beautiful in their own way and deserve to be appreciated for what they have to offer to the world.

 

Lone Pairs

Although I have you, it is as though I am incomplete

You make me so happy and love me so much

And when I say “its not you, it’s me”, I mean it

You give me everything I could ask for and more, but still, I am empty

Not for one second did I doubt that we were soulmates, but still I am empty

You take me wherever I want and do whatever I ask, but still, I am empty

When we sleep together, the way you hold me, you caress me and what you do to me are inexplicable, but still,

Every time you tell me you love me, tell me I am beautiful, tell me I am worth it feel happy and complete for some time, but then I am empty again

I don’t know why I feel this way

Will this feeling ever go away?

Why do I feel incomplete though I have everything?

Why are you not enough?

I have tried everything but nothing works

There is a void where it should be filled with memories, love, and joy

Though I have these, I am still empty

This void eats away at my insides and grows bigger and bigger

It is like a virus that has plagued my body eating its host away until the host is completely burned out, consumed and empty

 

The Memories

The memories they haunt me

The memories of joy

The memories of when there was a bright sky

But now the memories are dull

And it is not like the times my life was full

People tell me to kill myself

And I say “I’m sorry, I tried”

But I’ll try again

So I pick up the knife

The feeling so familiar yet different at the same time

And I slice over and over again

Hoping it will take away all my sorrows like cocaine

But it won’t work

So till next time

I’ll just tell everyone I am completely fine

What You Do Not See

I look in the mirror

I don’t like what I see

So I try not to eat and I try not to breath

I cover every inch of my body

And take sleeping pills till I am groggy

In hopes that it will work like an antibody

For the words coming out of the mouth of somebody

Telling me I am nobody

Making me believe that I am a burden to anybody

And I wish I was dead for the sake of everybody

My tears wash away the sorrows momentarily

Making me believe that I am ok, voluntarily

Because tomorrow in a new day and ordinarily

The pain will stay

 

 

R.I.P. Angel

I still remember him, my cousin brother, who three years ago was shot and killed for absolutely no reason.

 I remember his smile and charisma, and of course.. how he had this little twinkle in his right eye whenever he got really really happy.

 I remember his features: his black hair that he used to part to the side, his this eyebrows, his golden brown eyes that held many sorrows and secrets (of course nothing that I didn’t know), his long and curly eyelashes, his short but sharp nose, his prominent jawline, and my favorite – his caramel color skin. 

I remember how he used to protect me and make me feel safe, how he used to give me a sense of home when everything else around me was crumbling. 

I remember how he made me feel loved, how he stayed up with me until three in the morning just talking about life.

 I remember how he used to console me when I was sad, or how he just knew when something was not right. 

But most of all I remember that day, the day when everything changed. 

It was a chilly night when we were sitting on the couch, eating pancakes and watching TV. He came over for the weekend to spend time with us before he left for vacation with his fiancé; actually, they were not engaged yet but my brother was going to propose soon. 

I looked over at him and gave him a longing look and said: “Can we please get some ice cream?”. 

He looked back and said, “Do you really want to, I mean it is getting really late.” 

“Please, please, please….. We can go to the gas station down the street and get some.” 

“Its 1 am, do you really want to?” 

“Of course; please…… it will be fun, just you and me. Please?” 

In the end, he surrendered and took me out. We were in the car jamming to our favorite song, Low by Flo Rida, and just having fun and being ourselves. We pulled up to the gas station and I ran off in the store dashing straight to the ice cream isle right at the back. My brother followed cautioning me to watch where I was going or I would run into something. I pulled open the freezer door and saw a gold mine of ice cream flavors – Cookie Dough, Cake Batter, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz – and my favorite: Coffee Heath Bar Crunch! I stretched my hand reaching for the carton when I heard a loud noise, almost like a gunshot, I turned around to see a man covered in black holding a gun against the clerk’s head demanding for the money in the cash register. My brother pulled me down behind an aisle and put his index finger against his mouth signaling for me to be quite. He then got up and slowly started walking toward the robber. The robber quickly turned around and pointed the gun at my brother. I shook my head side to side as my brother left. He looked back and gave me a reassuring nod. He always wanted to help everyone, but this was a time where I wanted him to stay with me, to hold me in his arms and wait for the robber to leave. This was not the time for him to be his altruistic, benevolent self and help the clerk! 

“Take out your wallet!” he demanded. 

My brother looked at him and slowly put his hand into his pocket but before he could take out his wallet I heard another gunshot followed by an enormous thud. I was too scared to look until the robber had hurriedly left the store at the sound of police sirens. I quickly got up from where I was hiding and started running toward the front of the store where I saw my brother struggling to get up. I knelt down and gently put his head in my lap and yelled at the clerk to call 911. 

I looked at his face, more importantly, his eyes and I saw the purest most beautiful soul that could ever exist. He slowly started to close his eyes but I gently tapped his cheeks. 

“Hey, stay awake okay? They will be here in no time to help you… I promise” I said smiling with tears brimming my eyes. In my heart I knew that he could not die, I mean he would not die but something… something about the way the everlasting sparkle just fluttered away from his eyes told me today might be his last day. 

“I love you,” he said as his hand reached for my face and I bent down allowing him to touch my cheek. 

“It okay.. just keep your eyes open okay? just a minute okay? just hold on a little longer” I gently put my hand on the wound pressing so he would not bleed more than he already is. He winced in pain and I felt his breath getting slower and more shallow. 

“It okay, I,” I said over and over again, allowing him to close his eyes, not sure if I was saying it to assure myself or him. Soon enough the ambulance came and took him and me to the hospital. 

When we got there, they quickly took him away into the trauma room and started bombarding me with questions. 

“Hey, are you okay?” 

“I’m nurse Nancy and I promise you we will take good care of him. How is he related to you? Is he even related to you? Do you guys have any family that we can call? What happened?” 

I looked at the nurse, who was just trying to be nice, and gave her my unlocked phone. 

“Everyone the you need to call is in there.”  I said coldly as I walked away. 

I went to the bathroom and washed myself up before going outside to the waiting room and, before I knew it, the room was swarming with my relatives, parents, his fiancé and no one bothered to even take a look at me. My mom came to me once and hugged me making sure I was okay and did not get hurt. The night I waited; I waited patiently for the doctor to come and tell me the bad news or the good news, and surprisingly I did not shed even one tear the entire night. I just waited, hoping my brother was fighting as always, not giving up. 

About 6 hours later, a doctor came to us and gave us a pitiful look. When I saw that look on his face, I knew. I knew that the person I loved so much and so dearly was no more. 

“I am extremely sorry. We did everything we could but the damage and rupture caused by the bullet was too much and there was not much we could do. He bled out and died on the table. Once again, I am extremely sorry, but he is dead.” the doctor said with an expressionless face before walking away. I looked at everyone who broke down crying and I felt my vision get fuzzy and blurry as the tears started to spill over. Why did he have to go? He did not deserve this, I mean he was the nicest and most caring person I knew. It felt as though I had been punched in the stomach over and over again. I held onto my shirt tightly before falling back down into the chair. 

And I realized something. Something horrifying.  He died because of me. Because I could not keep my mouth shut and my fat, pig self wanted ice cream. He was dead because I could not back down from a midnight craving. He was dead because I was being a disobidient, naive teenager. 

I am sorry. I am sorry for taking away such a precious soul from this world. I remind myself everyday of the horror that happened on that night replaying it over and over again in my head wishing I had not been so stubborn. Then maybe things could have gone differently, right?  

I am so sorry for everything and I hope you are shining bright, no matter where you are. 

I love you so much and will never forget the way you used to light up my world, the way you gave me hope, strength, courage and warmth. 

I love you and I am really sorry….. 

Rest in Peace

This Time

I walk with my head held low

Like many times before

But this time it was different

This time it was not because my mom told me to

This time it was not because I was supposed to avoid eye contact with men

This time it was because my dress was too short and my heels were too high and my hair was let low and my bra was too tight

This time it was because I said ‘no’ but my dress ‘yes’

I said stop but my heels said go

I said I’m sorry but my hair said its ok

I said I don’t want this but my bra said come get me

This time it was because I was eye candy

Because this time he saw me and wanted to taste

Because this time he took his bite but did not like what he tasted

Because this time he was just happy to get a taste of everything

This time it was because I bled for another man

This time it was because my innocence and dignity were taken away from me

This time it was because I would slip on my dress and walk home like nothing ever happened

This time it was because I wasn’t going to tell a living soul

This time it was because I knew this wouldn’t be the last time

Because I have heard about the many girls before me

Because I thought this would never happen to me, but it did

Because it would always be this way

Because there was nothing I could do about it