As Victims Are Mourned in Florida, a Search for Solace, and Action
PARKLAND, Fla. — Scott J. Beigel, a geography teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, shepherded his students into the safety of a classroom Wednesday afternoon as a gunman roamed the halls, shooting, killing.
Mr. Beigel, 35, was fatally shot before he could lock the classroom door.
Four days later, hundreds of people filled a contemporary synagogue in Boca Raton to capacity, remembering Mr. Beigel not only for his final act of selflessness, but for an entire life in service of others.
“Scott’s life was not that moment; Scott’s heroism was not that incident,” said his father, Michael Schulman. “Scott’s heroism was his entire life.”
On the first Sunday after a local high school lost 17 of its own, mourners said farewell at funerals, a call for action grew louder and a pastor implored his congregation not to lose faith.
“Our world is broken, but Jesus is not,” Pastor Eddie Bevill of the Parkridge Church told the congregation, in reaction to the statements some students have made about the futility of prayer as a response to gun violence. “We pray that in the midst of the pain we are experiencing, that we can know you, Jesus.”
Pastor Bevill also asked his flock to pray for the suspect in the shooting, Nikolas Cruz, although he did not mention Mr. Cruz’s name or ask that he be forgiven.
At the high school, about a mile away from the church, a group of grief-stricken teen survivors vowed to change the laws that allowed Mr. Cruz to get hold of an assault weapon that the authorities say he used to slaughter his former classmates.
In a movement that has been building since the massacre last week, student organizers said on Sunday that they would mount a demonstration next month in Washington called March For Our Lives. Their mission is to pivot America’s long-running gun control debate — which tends to flare up with each mass shooting and then dissipate — toward meaningful action.
“We want this to stop. We need this to stop. We are protecting guns more than people,” said Emma González, 18, one of five core organizers, whose impassioned speech at a rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday drew national attention. “We are not trying to take people’s guns away; we are trying to make sure we have gun safety.”
Ms. González, a senior at the school, said the group was inviting elected officials “from any side of the political spectrum” to join the movement. But she said: “We don’t want anybody who is funded by the N.R.A. We want people who are going to be on the right side of history.”
The organizers hope the march, scheduled for March 24, will attract students from across the country, and they say more protests are planned.
Pastor Bevill’s Baptist church has a special relationship with the high school. For several years before its house of worship was completed in 1999, the congregation held services on the school campus, and many families of students belong to the church.
“Our hearts are heavy, we are overburdened, and we are incapable of holding the weight of grief that is upon us, but that is even more true of the families of the deceased,” Pastor Bevill said. He then read aloud the names of the dead, as congregants wiped tears from their cheeks and held their arms aloft.
In the afternoon, hundreds of family and friends packed a hotel ballroom to honor the memory of Jaime Guttenberg, 14. Mourners heard from cousins, a favorite teacher and her parents, each offering glowing stories that were painful to hear but still left you aching to hear more about the teenager.
Jaime loved to dance. She loved the color orange. She loved her two dogs, Charlie and Cooper. Her favorite song was “Rewrite the Stars,” and on the weekends, she volunteered to help people with special needs. She wanted to be a physical therapist.
Through tears, Jaime’s mother, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg, uttered the adjectives that best described her daughter: smart, focused, wise, graceful, sassy.
Fred Guttenberg talked about their father-and-daughter moments, like watching the television show “iCarly” together. He said she was a fighter whose energy could fill a room.
Mr. Guttenberg’s eulogy ended in anger and a standing ovation. He vowed to fight gun violence, and admonished President Trump for a Saturday night tweet that accused the F.B.I. of missing “signals” of Wednesday’s deadly rampage because of what the president characterized as the agency’s preoccupation with the Russian investigation.
Mr. Beigel, one of three faculty members killed in the attack, had only worked for the school for a few months, but was described as an important and beloved asset to the social studies department. Denise Reed, an assistant principal, said she knew Mr. Beigel was a perfect match for the school “in definitely less than two or three minutes” after he began his interview for the job in the spring of 2017.
Part of it, she said, was Mr. Beigel’s wry sense of humor, which could be self-deprecating: Mr. Schulman said that Mr. Beigel would not have believed that so many people would turn out to celebrate his life.
“Eh, they just came for the food,” Mr. Schulman imagined Mr. Beigel saying.
Mr. Beigel’s sarcastic streak was a defining trait. But over and over again, he was described as a man whose verbal bite was tempered by love and generosity, particularly in the context of a nearly 30-year relationship with Camp Starlight, a Pennsylvania retreat where he forged some of his closest bonds, first as a camper and later as a counselor.
A closed coffin lay in front of the congregation, draped in a black cloth adorned with a Star of David. Behind it was a large photo of Mr. Beigel in a baseball cap, with a warm smile.
The funeral for another student, Meadow Pollack, 18, was held on Friday. Her relatives, classmates, Governor Rick Scott of Florida and many others were seated row upon row and crowded in every corner of the Congregation Kol Tikvah synagogue, about a mile from the school.
Tears slipped from behind dark sunglasses as Rabbi Bradd Boxman stood below stained-glass windows and recalled a girl who shone “like a star.”
“I’m not here to explain any of this,” he said. “I can’t tell you why Meadow died the way that she did.”
Ms. Pollack’s boyfriend, Brandon Schoengrund, spoke about his “princess,” his shoulders slumped in pain. And her father, Andrew Pollack, stood in a black suit before the crowd and addressed the gunman.
“You. Killed. My. Kid.” he said, one word at a time, his voice booming through the synagogue in grief and rage. “My kid is dead. It goes through my head all day. And night. I keep hearing it over and over.”
“How does this happen to my beautiful, smart, loving daughter?” he said. “She is everything. If we could learn one thing from this tragedy, it’s that our everythings are not safe when we send them to school.”
The room heaved with sobbing teenagers as Ms. Pollack’s coffin was wheeled out for burial.
Audra S. Burch and Nick Madigan reported from Coral Springs, Fla.; Richard Fausset from Boca Raton and Julie Turkewitz from Parkland.