Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is less than a mile from the border between Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the schools in Coral Springs took the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas particularly hard. Two of those schools followed suit in honoring the victims and survivors by donning Stoneman Douglas-themed t-shirts in warmups before their district semifinal game.
The connections go so much deeper than t-shirts.
As reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Coral Springs’ boys basketball team celebrated its District 11-9A semifinal victory against crosstown Coral Glades by wearing “Pray for Douglas” t-shirts before and after their 67-59 victory.
Coral Glades followed suit, donning shirts that included the #EAGLEPRIDE hashtag with a reference to the date of the shooting. Both teams were moved to make as public a show of support as possible both because of their proximity and significant overlap.
“[The players] were real emotional yesterday,” Coral Springs coach Devin Barta told the Sun-Sentinel. “When I told them we were going to wear shirts to honor Stoneman Douglas, they kind of perked up. The community is relying on them to try and get back to a sense of normalcy.
“We want everyone to grieve in their own time, but we know that we can’t not go to school. We want to show we’re not going to let evil win. We’re going to keep coming out here and competing and being supportive for the community.”
That emotion was most obvious from Coral Springs senior Wilvens Fleurizard, who spent his freshman and sophomore season at Stoneman Douglas before transferring to Coral Springs. He made it clear that he still considers himself a Stoneman Douglas athlete, even as he competes for a district rival. That made witnessing the events on Valentine’s Day — including the death of his friend Joaquin Oliver — particularly hard to accept.
“I’m going to play for them,” Fleurizard told the Sun-Sentinel. “All my friends are still there; they’re living in the area. Their family is my family. We’re all one community. In this time of darkness, we have to choose light. Basketball allows us to escape the harsh reality that we live in. We’re going to use it as long as we can to ride it out.”
That’s clearly what both Coral Springs and Coral Glades were trying to achieve during their heated district playoff game. The good news is that no matter which team won, both were really paying tribute to the teens who lost their life days earlier.