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Finding Hope After Tragedy in 'Song of Parkland' on HBO
February 6, 2019  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

Among the far too many American schools that have been scarred by gun violence over the last few years, the loudest cry arose from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

But HBO’s Song of Parkland, a short documentary that airs Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, is not another report on the students who called so loudly for action on gun control.

Song of Parkland touches on that aspect of the response. It focuses more on a musical production by the school’s drama students, and what the production meant in the shadow of tragedy.

The Parkland shooting occurred almost a year ago, on Valentine’s Day 2018. A lone gunman, a former student, entered the school with weapons and killed 17 people – 14 students and three staff members. The suspect was captured and now faces multiple counts of first-degree murder.

Several Parkland students soon launched a national campaign calling for controls on gun sales. They helped organize a march in Washington and satellite marches around the country – attracting considerable publicity, much public support and a modest number of legislative responses, including some in Florida.

Song of Parkland, which runs a little less than half an hour, acknowledges those actions and ties them in a few ways into the drama program. At least one student in the activist group was also in the drama program and says his work there helped him in speaking out.

The real focus of the documentary stays with drama teacher Melody Herzfeld (above) and the students in the drama program, who number more than 70.

At the moment the shooting began, the students were in final rehearsals for their annual children’s production.

Herzfeld and some of the students recall that when an emergency alert sounded, they felt no urgency, instead decided to wrap up their almost-finished work on a particular song.

That decision, students suggest, could have saved some of their lives. By the time it became clear the situation was serious, Herzfeld had decided not to have the students leave the building and cross part of the open campus, but to move back into a closed supply room/office in the back of the theater area.

They waited there for two hours, sometimes hearing shots and clearly hearing the movement of law enforcement officers while they were receiving texts from students in other parts of the school about shootings and victims.

All the drama students survived, and in April they decided they would resume their production. It was therapeutic, they said, and reinforced the bonding that students were already feeling.

The documentary follows that process through the final production plus a bonus. The students were invited to sing a song from the production at the Tony Awards in New York (above).

Herzfeld and students call the production a positive note, an affirmation that hope would rise from the ashes of tragedy. By letting that single action stand as its statement, Song of Parkland lets another ray of light poke through the clouds.

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Mark Isenberg
Let's hope these students can live normal lives and that in Florida,we take much better care of those with mental illness. So far,we don't.
Feb 6, 2019   |  Reply
Elizabeth L'Abate
Let us also remember that the vast majority of shootings are carried out by people who do not meet the legal or clinical definition of mentally ill. So legislation aimed at preventing future shootings that focuses on preventing gun ownership by those who are mentally ill will have little effect. Limiting ALL gun ownership, especially of automatic, rapid-fire, multi-shot, guns, WILL affect the number of shootings.
Feb 9, 2019
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