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Five years after Parkland tragedy, Fla. first responders continue healing

Coral Springs public safety service members have turned to therapy, peer counseling and charity work


AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

By Leila Merrill
Editorial Staff

PARKLAND, Fla. — Five years after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 17 people were killed and 17 others were injured, the healing process continues for local first responders.

Coral Springs Deputy Fire Chief Mike Moser, who led the department’s response on Feb. 14, 2018, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the trauma was not limited to those who worked at the scene: “We live here. We know people who went to school there. Our families are a part of the community.”

Coral Springs Police Department Capt. Ed Derosa described the care officers have received – debriefings, peer-to-peer trauma counseling, meetings with psychologists and checkups.

Responders received guidance from first responders from other cities who had been through Sept. 11 or other school shootings, Moser said. Some have been in therapy.

Charity work helps him cope. Moser chairs the Parkland17 Memorial Foundation, which aims to build a public memorial to the lives lost. He said members of his fire and EMS department are in various stages of healing.

“Some may have completely healed. Some on the far end of spectrum may have a much harder reaction to what they saw. I don’t know if they ever will be healed. The community as a whole is in a much better place than day of, but I couldn’t tell you everyone is completely healed at this point — and some may never be.”

In a Facebook post, the fire department described Feb. 14, 2023, as a day of love and service.

“We’ve grieved, we’ve marched, we’ve turned our pain into action, we’ve remained united as a community, and we’ve never forgotten the 17 lives that were taken by such violence. On this Day of Love and Service, we ask you to engage in an act of kindness, whether big or small, in honor of those who lost their lives,” the Coral Springs Fire Department wrote.

NEXT: How police can prevent the next Parkland