By: Joey Weisler
A new school year has defined a new normal for the community. For many teachers, students, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the amount of grief this year as compared to the end of the last is nearly the same, but just on a different day.
Some security measures have been improved for this year, while others have stayed the same: Most notably, are the Guardian Angels.
David “Cobra” Clemente and Romero Davis are two prominent Guardian Angels that have represented Marjory Stoneman Douglas since the massacre last February. Their reasons follow their motto, “Dare to Care.”
“It’s about being involved, helping your neighbor, and giving back,” said Davis. Cobra joined the Guardian Angels in the late 70’s/early 80’s in New York City to stay out of harm’s way. With the Guardian Angels active in 137 cities, 13 countries, and having well over 6,000 members worldwide, Cobra describes it as “one of the best crime-fighting organizations in the world.”
With school up-and-running again, the Guardian’s presence have proven an invaluable and comforting asset to the students, parents, and the community at large. “The kids seem to be adjusting pretty well,” said Davis.
The Angels have spent the first week making rounds to Westglades Middle, Ramblewood Middle, Forest Glen Middle, Park Trails Elementary, along with other nearby Parkland and Coral Springs schools.
Cobra notes with heartfelt gratitude how supportive the community has been for them. Last year, their presence was unmistakable under a tent. Despite city regulations against housing the tent, several parents are pushing to have one provided again this year for the Angels.
“A tent does not define who the Guardian Angels are,” said Cobra. “We are not here for special privileges.”
The tent was used last year as a safe zone and area of solace for many students to sit with the Angels. Cobra and Davis would sit under the tent to hear how the students were feeling and understand them in a way no one else would, including their own family members who had not experienced the tragedy first-hand. As of the third day of school, over 100 students have requested for the tent to return.
While the students have not necessarily spoken with the Guardian Angels yet about how they are feeling about their new security measures, the changes are seemingly positive through observation. Security is notably present, as well as tighter, with larger backpacks and band cases being stopped and checked at student entry points.
Davis describes his most notable security job as displaying awareness and keeping senses about oneself. Cobra and Davis both express that the Guardian Angels presence has heightened awareness for students to be more observant of one another.
With a new school year, along with a new freshman class, the waters certainly continue to be navigated uncharted for many.
“So far, the freshman class has had a fairly smooth transition”, the Angels report, commenting on the students from neighboring feeder schools such as Westglades Middle and Coral Springs Middle, who also spent the afternoon of February 14th on lockdown as time stood still.
“It may be September or October until it really sinks in for them.” the Angels said. Many parents have freshmen students who have asked the Guardian Angels to exchange numbers with their child so they can exchange morning texts for security. “It lets [the students] know that we are here,” said Cobra.
Despite a new normal at MSD, year 29 with the Guardian Angels carries on with the 2018/19 theme, “Beyond”. The Angels stand as volunteers to protect the community and help whoever who needs help.
“Our red/white shirt gives hope to people,” said Cobra. “Our history gives hope to people.”
Joey Weisler is a native to the city of Parkland and a homebred student of each of the Parkland schools (MSD class of 2013). He has earned his BA in Communication Studies from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in 2017 and his MA in English: Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in 2018. He hopes to make huge strides as an up-and-coming secondary English/Language Arts instructor.
Joey is also a nationally distributed screenwriter. Catch his Pilot, “The Abnormals”, on the South Florida PBS-WPBT Spring 2018 series “Filmmaker”. “The Abnormals” is a drama filmed in Parkland with South Florida talent (2015).