Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for a half day of classes Wednesday, two weeks after the mass shooting there.
Ryan Petty's 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was killed in the shooting. His 17-year-old son Patrick went back to school Wednesday.
"Patrick's trying to be tough," Petty tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. "He's obviously lost his sister, and he and his sister were very close. They were in the JROTC program together. So I think this has hit him especially hard. It's hit our whole family hard. But I think he'll be missing her at school today. But he's trying to be tough. He's trying to be strong."
On whether it's appropriate for the school to reopen today
"I do. It actually was good to see the kids back. They got a chance on Sunday to come back and be on campus to pick up some of their belongings, and I thought that was a good first step. It was good to see the students back here today."
"There's a thousand things I'd rather be doing today. But I just don't want any other parents, I don't want any other students to have to go through what we're going through right now."Ryan Petty
On the security presence at the school as students return
"This is now the safest school in America. So, you know, I'm telling everybody, this time must be different. We need to get our schools secured. Nothing's going to happen to the students today at Stoneman Douglas but the beginning of the healing process for them. But the schools around the country are not secured and we need to get them secured."
On the past two weeks
"There's a big hole in our hearts and a big hole in our family. I think we go through a range of emotions every day. Just stunned that this happened. We miss Alaina dearly. Never thought that this could happen to us, and I think there are times where we still can't believe it's real."
"There's a thousand things I'd rather be doing today. But I just don't want any other parents, I don't want any other students to have to go through what we're going through right now. If you knew Alaina, you'd know she was such a sweet girl, and she'd come into a room and just light up the room, and she was everybody's friend. And she loved service, she loved to serve other people and she loved to serve her community. And I'm calling what I'm doing right now, is another act of service in her name."
On what action needs to be taken
"It's a really difficult question to answer because I think — you know I wish there was a single piece of legislation that we could pass and this would never happen again. Unfortunately, it's just not that simple. But I do think there are some things that we can rally around, and when I say, 'This time must be different,' what I mean is after every other school shooting, we've been mired down in a debate over gun control and the Second Amendment. And both sides are incredibly polarized. We all know the arguments well on both sides. We don't even trust each other's motives at this point on that issue. So, if we go down that path, in my view, then this will be just like every other school shooting. So my message is 'this time must be different,' and the way we're going to make this different is we're going to come together on school security. We're going to take these soft targets — the schools are soft targets. We've got to change that. We've got to keep guns out of the hands of people that want to hurt themselves and hurt other people. And I think, in this case, in particular, there were signs that the shooter wanted to hurt other people. And we'll figure out in time through investigations, we'll figure out what went wrong here. But it was clear that law enforcement needed some additional capabilities to be able to address this and deal with this.
"We're going around in state of Florida with Gov. [Rick] Scott. He's proposed legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people that want to hurt other people, he's proposing to secure the schools and he's proposing more funding for mental health. And I think those things will make this different. And then there's some longer term things that we need to do. But right now those are the things that we can rally around and get done."
On background checks and weapon bans
"Well, look, we've got background checks already. And unfortunately the shooter passed all the background checks. So, you know, there are a couple of things that we need to make sure are done. The [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] database, we need to make sure all of the counties and all of the states are putting the correct information into that database. There's some things we can do from a data perspective to make that better. You know, I wish it was as easy as banning a certain type of weapon, but I — unfortunately if you're intent on hurting somebody, you're going to move to option B or C. And I don't want to give anybody any ideas, but unfortunately it's not as simple as banning a particular type of weapon, in my view."
This segment aired on February 28, 2018.