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Father of Parkland victim: Honor ‘smiles and laughter,’ not horror

(NewsNation) — As demolition began on the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where his daughter and 16 others were killed in 2018, Tony Montalto said their legacies should be the smiles and laughter they shared on campus – not the horror of how they died.

Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina was among the victims of the Valentine’s Day massacre six years ago in Parkland, Florida, hopes a memorial at the site can honor the slain students with something like a water feature visible from the road.

“Their legacy should be the smiles and the laughter that they shared on that campus, not the horrible way in which they were taken from our families,” Montalto said Saturday on “NewsNation Prime” as demolition crews began tearing down the three-story building.

Montalto said walking through the site with his wife to see where their daughter was killed “was more of a tear your heart out” experience, as there is no closure when a child is murdered at school.

While the building’s demolition comes as schools nationwide implement tougher security like lockable gates and remote-locking doors, Montalto cautioned against making schools feel like prisons. He advocated a “holistic” approach centered on mental health screening, security and responsible gun ownership.

Montalto, president of Stand With Parkland, urged communities to get serious about preventing school shootings through behavioral threat assessment that can identify troubled students and get them help before they turn to violence.

Montalto said an off-campus memorial is currently in the works by the Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation.

Describing Gina as a bright, bubbly straight-A student beloved by all, Montalto said: “We miss her bright and bubbly personality every day.”

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