It was four years ago when Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was devastated by a terrifying act of evil.
Seventeen people were killed and more were injured in a shooting enacted by Nikolas Cruz, a former student of the high school. Cruz blended in with the other students and managed to flee, but was unsuccessful once he was identified. As a result, Cruz was apprehended and charged with seventeen counts of murder and attempted murder, and was given a trial four years later.
At the trial, all of the evidence was presented: the weapons used, the gear that Cruz sported, and the footage of Cruz enacting this act of heinous violence. Some that were caught in the middle of this incident presented themselves in court as a witness against Cruz.
Listening to the victims and their stories was enough to send chills down my spine. I can’t imagine the terror of trying to evacuate the premises while also trying to survive a gunshot wound. However, if it’s anything I’ve learned in all of my life, something more chilling than knowing of a threat is not knowing anything about it. That’s where one of the most vivid parts of this incident comes in.
When student John Wilford escaped to a restaurant and sat at a table with Nikolas Cruz under the assumption he too survived, I can only assume that his heart sank once he discovered he was sitting across from a mass murderer. Cruz even asked him for a ride home, which Wilford declined.
Even though Cruz was caught and punished, you still must wonder: what if Cruz was still armed? What if he followed Wilford to the restaurant in an effort to target him? There are many nightmares that could have erupted out of this one instance, and fortunately, none of them did.
This particular instance is a pure example of how danger can come in many forms. In this case, it took the form of a peer. Crimes shouldn’t be attributed with any age: everybody of all ages can commit any crime at any time if they are able to.
Of all of the animals to roam the Earth, humankind is the most dangerous. We are the most unpredictable: we are extremely diverse, we come in different shapes and sizes, we have different levels of intelligence and interests, and we also have studied every single animal to ever exist. The only one that will never be fully understood is a human being.
As of today, the trial has been concluded. Cruz had pleaded guilty at every chance he was presented, and even took the opportunity to apologize for the unchangeable tragedies he committed. However, as of November 2nd, this was redundant in changing his sentence: life in prison without parole.
What was notable about this whole trial was that Cruz was actually eligible for the death penalty. The death penalty suggestion was not successful, however, due to the jury made of twelve members being unable to unanimously agree on it.
This is where the line gets drawn. From the start, everybody could possibly infer how this trial would end, and their predictions were most likely right: Cruz would not get away with his terrible crimes.
Everybody is entitled to a fair trial in terms of the court of law, and in this case, that is what was done. However, watching it unfold, it was almost like watching a hole get dug deeper. You can particularly see this with the families of those that were lost. For example, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff lost his daughter, Alyssa, in the shooting. It was hard to hear about Alyssa’s extracurriculars, such as being the captain of the soccer team, and her dreams of going to be a business lawyer- all in vain. It’s a heavy subject that took confidence to tell, and Alhadeff was visibly unstable during his explanation of his grief. This didn’t just affect him, but all of Alyssa’s other family and friends. This goes for all of the rest of the victims: everybody has lost someone valuable.
Look at this from a moral perspective, rather than a judicial one. Cruz has taken seventeen lives, injured more, and in the process, affected those that surround all of these people. None of these people deserved what they got, let alone knew what would happen that day would affect them, and be branded in their minds for the rest of time. Some will never get over their trauma that they’ve gained from this shooting. Therefore, it’s appalling that Cruz did not receive the death penalty.
Cruz is young. As of right now, he is twenty-two, but when he committed the shooting, he was nineteen. There is no limit to where evil can lie. There is no set description for who a criminal can be in terms of a person. They can be any age, any height, any weight, any race, any sexuality- everybody is as equal as the next in terms of potential. Despite having a history of mental health problems, Cruz still chose to stockpile weapons, to devise a plan, and to sneak in and out of this situation.
Even though it is a right to have a fair trial, the trial in particular seemed very emotional, as was expected.. The result could be predicted, but what was said couldn’t have been. Each and every person had the right to arrive at the court that day, and open Cruz’s eyes up to what he’s done, and let them know what they have to permanently live with now.
The case from my eyes looked like a chance to express grief and anger. Cruz’s lawyer even cried during the trial, knowing who she was sent to defend. She was sitting next to a monster because she had to, not because she wanted to.
This took effort, and that suggests this was on purpose. Giving him life in prison seems like a slap on the wrist. Suggesting the death penalty, this isn’t following the “eye for an eye” approach- he’s killed seventeen people. He didn’t let them have another second to breathe, so why should he be allowed this privilege he denied them? Cruz will rot in prison to this day, but that’s just putting off the real punishment that comes with old age.