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It’s been three years since the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

While the shock has slowly faded, the pain remains for the survivors, the families of victims, and the South Florida community. Now a place dedicated to healing, reflection, and peace in Wilton Manors is getting some TLC, making sure it will be here for a long time to come.

The mural and MSD Memorial Rock Garden outside Lola’s Bazaar Market was created in the aftermath of the shooting. While many of the student survivors made sure the world paid attention by using their political leverage of the moment, others suffered in silence.

Dr. Julio Busciolano is a mental health therapist who worked with many of them, and told SFGN about what he saw, and how he was inspired to help them heal through art.

“I saw in these survivors an initial sense of confusion, related to PTSD symptoms: lack of sleep, tendency to isolate, flashbacks, panic with noises, etc.,” he said. “Above all a sense of disconnection with self and others.”

In the days after the shooting, students were given tiles and encouraged to express their feelings through art.

“So they could allow their raw emotions to be expressed in a creative way instead of having those emotions push down inside. And when they placed the tiles together, it was almost electric.”

This turned out to be a positive first step, but due to the scope of the tragedy, Dr. Busciolano knew more had to be done and took a leap of faith.

“I wanted more! And as I looked around I saw an empty wall in front of Lola’s Bazaar, and without a specific plan, I called Evan Anthony, the owner, and said ‘Would you give me that wall for the MSD students?’”

Anthony was happy to provide the canvas. Now the project needed direction.

Next Dr. Busciolano was able to meet Lauren Rosa, the art teacher at MSD. Being able to work with someone who had an established physical and emotional connection to the students helped bring everything together.

“Meeting Lauren was a gift. An amazing and talented professional that led the project every weekend,” he said. “But by the end of July she had to leave for her new job at the Department of Defense in Tokyo. It was difficult for the young artists but they were resilient and continued to come on their own.”

Even though he isn’t a trained artist, Dr. Busciolano stayed close to the project by setting up a booth at the bazaar, selling his vinyl records. He watched as the students painted the eagle, then used portraits of the victims to create their images on the wall.

When you visit, you can’t help but be moved. Each picture is a lost member of our community, memories kept alive by a community that cares and refuses to forget.

“When you experience trauma, words are insufficient,” he said. “Positive change happens when human beings can express themselves through artwork, reframing feelings and I believe, mostly in this case, they produce a deliberate response to an experience.”

Now, to mark the three-year anniversary, the mural is getting some much-needed upkeep. From heavy rains to fading in the sun, South Florida weather is tough on outdoor art. Viviana Werner, an MSD alum, started the restoration, and is thankful to Kimberly Marie from Holy Mackerel who donated the paint, as well as the continued support from Wesley Schultz and Evan Anthony at Lola’s Bazaar.

Dr. Busciolano is glad the mural will continue to be here for others.

“Throughout these three years I’ve seen people stopping by and crying, praying, getting angry, struggling to make sense, and families talking to their children,” he said. “A powerful moment: the day when a Sandy-Hook survivor joined an MSD survivor at the mural and held hands.”

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