Mixed emotions over demolition of Parkland shooting site

The Parkland, Florida, school building where a gunman killed 17 people six years ago is being torn down, eliciting mixed emotions from still grieving parents.

The demolition began on Friday morning as some family members of the victims watched from a distance.

The February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is among the deadliest school shootings in US history.

The culprit was sentenced to life without parole in 2022.

Authorities invited the families of the students killed in the massacre to watch the first blows to the building if they choose.

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed, told CBS, the BBC's US partner, that she wants the building gone.

"It's one more step in the healing process for me and my family," she said. "My son still goes to school there, and he has to walk past that building where his sister died."

Like Ms Alhadeff, Jackson Meaney, a incoming second-year student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, thinks the building's demolition is a "good thing".

"Nobody really knows what they're going to end up replacing it with," Mr Meaney said. "That'll maybe be interesting to see what they do for that. But [the demolition is] a good thing."

Other parents, however, said they had hoped that the building would be left standing to honour the students who lost their lives.

Among them are Gena and Thomas Hoyer, who lost their son Luke during the shooting.

"For me, the trouble with the building is it's the last place where Luke was alive," Mrs Hoyer said. "It's hard for me thinking that the building is coming down."

She acknowledged, however, that she understands the Parkland community and some of the families "need closure".

"I don't need it for closure for me, there will never be closure, but I do understand the feelings of the community," she said.

The local school board in Florida's Broward County has yet to determine what will take the building's place.

Previously, school administrators had suggested that a field for the school's band or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, be placed there, together with a pathway to a temporary memorial that was put in place several years ago.

Some of the students killed during the shooting participated in the school's band or JROTC.

Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina, 14, died that day, said he would like to see a permanent memorial replace the one currently in place.

"We are part of the community, too," he told CBS.

But Mr Montalto acknowledges there are "a lot of conflicting emotions" that come with the demolition of the building.

"My son is concerned that people will forget now that the building is being taken down," he said.

"My wife said she had kind of grown attached to the space as we walked through it so many times with different leaders and policy makers."

The gunman who carried out the shooting, Nikolas Cruz, was sentenced in November 2022 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The previous month, a Florida jury voted for him to be spared the death penalty, a decision that sparked outrage among relatives of the victims.