Parkland Shooting: Schentrup Family Reflects On Daughter's Death One Year Later "Everybody should consider what it would mean to lose their child, their spouse," says Philip Schentrup. His daughter Carmen was among the 17 students and staff killed in Parkland, Fla., last year.
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Parkland Family Reflects On A Year Of Anguish And Activism

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Parkland Family Reflects On A Year Of Anguish And Activism

Parkland Family Reflects On A Year Of Anguish And Activism

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This Thursday, February 14, marks one year since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen people were killed that day. A few weeks after the shooting, NPR's Melissa Block profiled the family of one of the Parkland victims. Her name was Carmen Schentrup. She was a senior. Now Melissa visits the family again to talk about their year of grief, anger and activism.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: The days now go something like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZIPPER CLOSING)

PHILIP SCHENTRUP: All right. Let's go.

BLOCK: Dad Philip Schentrup heads to the office. On his backpack, there's a small blue pin, a tribute made by a friend. It shows Carmen's smiling face and a message.

P SCHENTRUP: Be the change. Carmen Schentrup.

BLOCK: Do you like having that on there?

P SCHENTRUP: Absolutely. And I don't think it's ever coming off.

BLOCK: A few miles away...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Come in, April. Sit wherever you want.

BLOCK: ...Mom April Schentrup seeks comfort at a grief support group.

APRIL SCHENTRUP: That feeling, like, other people have moved on and it's hard for us to get there.

BLOCK: And back at home...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Welcome. We're excited to have you joining us today.

BLOCK: Fourteen-year-old Evelyn, Carmen's younger sister, logs in for an orientation session with her new online high school.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Plan your term meaning. Find your rhythm and adjust as needed, and then thrive.

BLOCK: Several months ago, the Schentrup family moved across the country, trading the palm trees of southern Florida for snowy mountain views outside Seattle. They moved mostly for Philip's job. He works for a tech company based here. But there's more to it. Evelyn, who shares her older sister's soulful eyes and glossy dark hair, tells me even though she really didn't want to move, hated leaving her Parkland friends behind, her parents needed a fresh start.

EVELYN: I think it was just hard for them being, like, around so many reminders of her.

BLOCK: Just needed to be away?

EVELYN: Yeah. They need to be away from all the problems and the stress behind everything.

BLOCK: But when Evelyn started at her new high school in Washington, she had a couple of panic attacks. That's why she's doing online classes.

EVELYN: I guess it was just too much change for me. I just started crying out of nowhere. And so I went to the bathroom to, like, wipe off my tears, you know, fix my makeup, like a teenager would do. And then I couldn't stop crying. It was just, like, a river of tears down my face. Called my mom, and then...

A SCHENTRUP: And she called me, just saying, I can't breathe. I can't. I just can't be here.

BLOCK: April, the mom, can imagine what that feels like. She says at times staying in Parkland felt suffocating. The implicit pressure to be "Parkland Strong," for one thing.

A SCHENTRUP: So you put on this facade that you're OK, you're strong, you're going to get through this. You're a fighter. And some days, you know, it's true. You do feel like that. And other days, it's a lot harder.

BLOCK: And what made the hard days even worse was learning about all the things that went wrong leading up to the shooting. The warnings to the FBI tip line about specific threats the shooter had made. Tips that fell through the cracks. The long chain of security failures at the school and the flawed response by law enforcement once the shooting started. The more the Schentrups learned, the angrier they got.

P SCHENTRUP: Lots of people knew this person was troubled. The only thing he could've done more to signal his intent was to buy a billboard on 95 and put a billboard up there. Because he was telling people all the time that he wanted to go do bad things.

BLOCK: And so the Schentrups have turned to activism. They're part of the advocacy group Stand With Parkland, started by the victims' families. They're pushing for changes nationwide - tougher school safety measures, better mental health screening and tighter gun laws.

P SCHENTRUP: There's a lot of people who just want to argue the extremes - gun was the issue or mental health was the issue. It isn't an either or. It's a all of the above. And so we are going to keep advocating for the reasonable middle ground that most Americans can agree on to go get things done. If we choose to wait, there will just be more parents like us.

BLOCK: Their kids are involved, too. Last summer, their son Robert, who's in college, joined Evelyn on the "Road To Change" bus tour, registering new voters and talking about gun violence prevention. The Schentrups are settling into a new city, meeting new people. But April finds that the simplest questions can be the hardest to answer, like, how many kids do you have? How old are they?

A SCHENTRUP: You know? You could say, Carmen's forever 16. But just when I said it, it didn't sound right. I think I even tried, I have one in college and, you know, one here with me and my other one is in heaven. But again, it just doesn't feel right. So I don't know. Still trying. I feel like if I don't mention her, it's just wrong, though.

BLOCK: And there's this - the troubling sense their sharp individual loss has been swallowed up, overtaken by the post-Parkland movement. April finds when she tells people where they moved from...

A SCHENTRUP: They'll say, Parkland, Fla., where - "March For Our Lives," or, the Parkland activists? And I say, yup. That's Parkland, Fla. But I wonder, do they know the people that died? Do they know their names? And although I'm very thankful for "March For Our Lives" 'cause they spoke when we couldn't speak and I admire them, you know, what they've done - but I also want to make sure that Carmen's not forgotten, that the people that we lost are not forgotten.

BLOCK: This Thursday, one year after the shooting, the Schentrups will be at home, their new home, outside Seattle. Carmen's ashes are there in a metal urn. It's blue, her favorite color. The family has no special plans that day, just staying close.

P SCHENTRUP: Bunker down, getting through the day.

A SCHENTRUP: It'll never be Valentine's Day for us, I think. Every day, I cry. So I'm sure it'll involve that. And hugging Evelyn a little bit harder. But February 14, we're just going to be together.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDERICO ALBANESE'S "SILENT FALL")

BLOCK: Melissa Block, NPR News.

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