Wednesday found Parkland, Fla., Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, a Boston native, trying to make sense of a senseless horror.
A mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left at least 17 dead and her suburban community of about 30,000 in South Florida reeling.
A former student opened fire at the high school as classes were being dismissed, triggering a chaotic and bloody scene, police said. Students fled onto the streets and SWAT team members swarmed the area. The 19-year-old suspect, identified as Nikolaus Cruz, was taken into custody about a mile away from the school, according to authorities.
“It’s very sad,” Hunschofsky said during a phone interview with the Globe Wednesday evening. “People are very shocked and scared. We’re a small community, a very close-knit community, and a very safe community.”
Hunschofsky said she was at the scene about 15 minutes after the shooting occurred. Police were still setting up a perimeter, she said. Initially, there was some confusion about whether there was an active shooter, she said.
She described an emotional scene: parents arriving to the school were crying, as were some students who were leaving the school.
“People were crying because they didn’t know where their kids were,” she said. “When I first got there people were just starting to hear from their children. There were people still waiting to hear from their kids, and that’s tough for any parent.”
One of her sons, John, is a junior at a different high school, she said, but she knows many of the parents and students who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
She said she was at the high school Friday for a celebration of Black History Month and again during the weekend for a debate tournament, which she judged and her son competed in, she said.
The school, she said, is walking distance from her home. Her initial reaction, she said, when she heard news of the shooting, was to go to the school and “see what I can do to help.”
The city, she said, is going to offer “support in any way, shape, or form that we’re asked to.” She said her office’s job “is to provide the resources needed to help our community heal.”
“The fact that something like this happened today is unexpected,” she said. “It shows that something like this can happen anywhere.”
Hunschofsky has deep ties to Massachusetts.
The 48-year-old mother of two grew up on Sunset Hill Road in West Roxbury, up the street from Holy Name Church. She graduated from Boston Latin School in 1987, Boston University in 1992, and completed her MBA at Babson College in 1996. She still returns at least once a year to visit relatives in Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain; within the last year, she visited twice, she said.
She moved to Florida in 2000 for her husband’s work, she said, and was elected mayor of Parkland, which is located about 24 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale, in the fall of 2016.
On Wednesday, she said she did not think there was a simple solution that would prevent mass shootings.
“I think if there was an easy answer to that, someone would have come up with that already,” she said. “I think the first thing that needs to happen is there needs to be a will to solve the problem.”
She said there are “many different reasons tragedies like this happen.”
“Until we are willing to ask the hard questions, I don’t think we will come to the answers,” she said. “I don’t know if we have many legislators who have the attention spans to work hard to find solutions.”Material from The New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.