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Parkland families share heartbreaking stories of loss in sentencing hearing

"My last words were not 'I love you.'"

During the sentencing hearing for the Stoneman Douglas High School shooter this week, parents shared heartbreaking testimony on how the death of their children changed their lives forever.

On February 11, 2018, a former student shot and killed 14 students and three staff members of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, injuring another 17.

In October, 2021, the shooter plead guilty to 17 counts of murder, 17 counts of attempted murder and four additional charges after the gunman attacked a Broward County Jail guard nine months after the shooting.

Now, a sentencing hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida will determine if the shooter will receive life in prison or the death penalty.

Parents and family members took the stand to provide victim impact statements to the jury, detailing how the horrific deaths of their children, grandchildren and partners have changed their lives.

The following are a small fraction of some of the parents' heartbreaking testimonies. They have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Lori and Ilan Marc Alhadeff

The Alhadeff's 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa Alhadeff, was shot and killed inside her English class.

I have all the love in the world to give, and no one to give it to.

lori Alhadeff

“I don’t believe the word grief adequately describes what I have felt since Alyssa was shot and killed almost four years ago. How can I possibly measure the impact felt by the loss of Alyssa? It’s as if I have all the love in the world to give, and no one to give it to.” — Lori Alhadeff

"My firstborn daughter, my shining star, daddy’s girl, was taken from me. I get to watch my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues spending time, enjoying their daughters — enjoying all the normal milestones, taking in the joys. And I can only watch videos or go to the cemetery to see my daughter." — Ilan Marc Alhadeff

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Lori Alhadeff reaches over to comfort her mother, Theresa Robinovitz, as she breaks down after reading her victim impact statement.Amy Beth Bennett / Getty Images

Annika Dworet

Annika and Mitchell Dworet lost their son, 17-year-old Nicholas Dworet, during the shooting. A competitive swimmer, Nick was the captain of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas swim team with dreams of competing in the 2020 Olympics.

We have an empty bedroom in our house and there's an empty chair at our dining table.

Annika Dworet

"Alex will never have a brother to talk or hang out with. They will never again go for a drive blasting very loud music. We did not get to see Nick graduate from high school or college. We will not get to see him getting married. We will always hesitate before answering the question, 'How many kids do you have?'

"There are no words to express how much we miss Nick. The world is missing out not having Nick in it."

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Annika Dworet holds a photo of her son, Nicholas, as she and her husband, Mitch, take the stand to give their witness impact statements.Amy Beth Bennett / Getty Images

Fred Guttenberg

Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg lost their 14-year-old daughter, Jamie.

My son wishes it was him.

Fred Guttenberg

“My last words were not I love you. I cannot recall if I actually ever did tell Jamie that day how much I loved her. I never knew that I would lose the chance to say it over and over and over again. 

Parents and friends of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School leave the courtroom.Mike Stocker / AFP via Getty Images

“I want to share something with you all that I’ve never said publicly before — my son wishes it was him. He struggles with the reality that he could not save his sister and he wishes it was him. He has struggles with me — I was the one who convinced him to run. I was the one who told him not to turn around and not go into the building. My son used to be my mini-me. We used to do everything together. This changed that.”

Shara Kaplan

Kaplan lost her 18-year-old daughter, Meadow Pollack.

It is an unspeakable punishment.

Shara Kaplan

"The relationship I have with my daughter is one of admiration, overwhelming love and great respect. To try to articulate how it has affected me would be for me to rip my heart out and present it to you, shattered in a million pieces. It has destroyed my life and my capability of ever living a productive existence. I am only able to carry on for the deep love I have for my boys.

I need to make sure they have some semblance of a productive, fulfilled life they deserve. It haunts and consumes my every thought, every second of every day. I suppress my reality to survive. As a mother, how I am impacted? It is an unspeakable punishment."

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