On Feb. 14, 2018, 14 students and three teachers were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. A few days later, Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was among the victims, made headlines when she made an impassioned on-camera plea to Donald Trump to take action to prevent school shootings from occurring. On the first anniversary of the shooting and her daughter's death, Lori shared a Valentine's Day letter she wrote to her daughter through Dear World, a "non-profit organization that connects creators and communities to help people learn important things about each other," and it'll move you to laughter, tears, and action.
"It's Valentine's Day. A day full of love, chocolates and flowers. For me, it is more than that now," she begins the #DearAlyssa letter. "Last Valentine's Day was the last time I saw you. You wore a black and white dress. Your long dark hair dangled. Your makeup looked just right. Of course, your white Converse sneakers protected your feet as you walked in to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Valentine's Day is now about memories. Today, like all days, I remember."
Lori remembers that Alyssa wasn't looking forward to school that day, as she hadn't had a Valentine. Having been 14 once, she knew what her daughter was feeling at the thought of walking through school and seeing heart decorations, being surrounded by teen couples; so she tried to make the day special for her by gifting her a pair of diamond earrings "to make you feel pretty, a chocolate bar to make you smile, and hair ties so you wouldn't ask for mine." Once the earrings were in her ears, Alyssa felt ready for school, and once there, the pair exchanged "I love you's" in the car. It was the last time Lori saw Alyssa alive.
"A year has been a long time without you. So much has happened I want to tell you about," Lori wrote. "I watch your brothers miss you terribly. They want you to know they miss fighting with you. They say thank you for convincing dad to get unlimited WiFi. Dad fights for you every day. He's your voice. Grammy has honoured you and became a school safety activist. We got a dog! Her name is Roxy and she's a soccer player, like you. She kicks the ball around the yard, but sometimes puts it in her mouth. And your soccer team...wow, what a group. They wear your number eight on their sleeves and have started using it sideways to honour you. Infinity. Oh, and I found out about the time you jumped off a bridge down by the beach?! Alyssa, you jumped off a bridge?!"
Since Alyssa's death, Lori says that her protective instincts over Alyssa haven't left just because she's gone. She talks to other mums who have lost children and has been inspired to do things she never thought she'd do — like rage at the President on live TV, start a nonprofit, get a law passed in Alyssa's name (literally, it's called "Alyssa's Law"), or run for the school board . . . and win.
"Mothers know. Intuition prevails. Mine came as soon as someone told me there'd been a shooting at school. I knew you were gone. Rabbi Gutnick said, 'Have faith, Lori.' I said, 'No, you must start planning now.' You were with me. I knew it. We lost 14 students and three teachers. 17 beautiful people we, as a community, needed to bury. You were the first," Lori wrote. She added, to end the moving piece: "It's Valentine's Day. As I remember you, grief washes over me. But that grief emboldens me to fight for change. I wish I could take all the bullets for you. It's been a year since I saw you. You, in that black and white dress, those Converse on your feet, and that smile. I'll never forget that smile. It feels like yesterday. I just want you back. Love forever, Mum."