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ABC News
ABC News
7 Jul 2023
ABC News


Linda Beigel Schulman always wanted to go inside the Parkland, Florida, building that's sat untouched since her son's murder. This week, she got her chance.

Schulman's son, geography teacher and cross-country coach Scott Beigel, was among the 17 students and staff killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

PHOTO: Runners run past the memorial at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 20, 2018.
Runners run past the memorial at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 20, 2018. Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas cross country team organized a run to honor their fallen coach, Scott Beigel, and the 16 other victims of the school shooting.
Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Beigel, 35, was shot while shepherding his students to safety in his third floor classroom in the 1200 building.

Victims' families were permitted to see the building this week now that the trials have concluded for gunman Nikolas Cruz, who last year was sentenced to life in prison, and former school officer Scot Peterson, who last month was acquitted of child neglect after he had allegedly retreated while students were being shot.

Schulman and her husband flew from New York to Florida on Wednesday to visit the 1200 building for the first time, tracing the path of the massacre from the first floor to the third.

Schulman had seen video of the crime scene at Cruz's trial, so she said she thought she was prepared to see the building, where dried blood and students' strewn papers sit untouched like a time capsule.

"I was not prepared. I was so mistaken," she told ABC News on Thursday.

PHOTO: Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, is overcome with emotion as she talks to journalists about visiting the scene where her son and 16 others were killed, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., July 5, 2023.
Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of geography teacher and cross country coach Scott Beigel, is overcome with emotion as she talks to journalists about visiting the scene where her son and 16 others were killed, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., July 5, 2023.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP

"Seeing the video, as horrific as it is ... especially the clip when the murderer aimed his AR-15 at Scott, and Scott going down after he was shot. It's like, if you and I do a Zoom and then I talk to you in person," she explained. "It was horrible. ... All the glass being shot out ... seeing the bullet holes in the walls."

On the third floor, Schulman reached her son's classroom. Schulman and her son had an unbreakable bond, and the two spoke on the phone most days.

"No matter what it was gonna take, I was gonna go into Scott's classroom. I wanted to stand where Scott took his last breath," she said. "I wanted to see where it was that he had fallen and was laying on the floor."

PHOTO: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 1200 building update, June 30, 2023, in Parkland, Fla.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 1200 building update, June 30, 2023, in Parkland, Fla.
Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

On Beigel's desk, she found her son's open laptop, covered with dust, along with students' assignments.

"I saw Scott's notes and his lesson plans, and was able to take pictures of his walls," she said. "He loved his students and I needed to see where he was."

She took home with her a yellow banner with a huge smiley face that had hung in the classroom.

"I'm going to give that to my grandkids," she said, "so when they look at it, they remember Scott."

PHOTO: Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, is overcome with emotion as she talks to journalists about visiting the scene where her son and 16 others were killed, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., July 5, 2023.
Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of geography teacher and cross country coach Scott Beigel, is overcome with emotion as she talks to journalists about visiting the scene where her son and 16 others were killed, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., July 5, 2023.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son, Alex, was killed in his first floor classroom, debated whether he'd go inside the building. But he ended up touring the crime scene on Thursday.

"I came to the decision because I wanted to be in that room. I wanted to sit in Alex's chair. That was the last place he took his last breath," Schachter told ABC News on Friday. "I wanted to connect with him in that space."

Schachter said his son's classroom "was like a horror scene from a war zone."

"It was grotesque," he said. "There was so much blood everywhere, especially around Alex's desk."

PHOTO: Max Schachter, with his son, Ryan holds a photograph of his other son, Alex, just before giving his victim impact statement during the penalty phase in the trial of MSD shooter Nikolas Cruz on Aug. 3, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Max Schachter, with his son, Ryan, by his side, holds a photograph of his other son, Alex, just before giving his victim impact statement during the penalty phase in the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse on Aug. 3, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images, FILE

Schachter said he prepared for Thursday's visit by listening to the medical examiner's testimony and prosecutor Mike Satz's closing arguments from Cruz's trial to help him understand his son's last moments.

Alex, a talented trombone player in the school marching band, was in his classroom when he heard the first shots in the hallway, and he tried to run, Schachter said, "but he didn't have enough time."

Alex "was shot twice in the chest, severed his spinal cord and he fell backwards over the chair," he said.

PHOTO: Alex Schachter is seen here in this undated file photo.
Alex Schachter is seen here in this undated file photo.
Instagram

As the gunman opened fire from the hallway, other students rushed to the teacher's desk, but there wasn't enough space to hide.

"There's blood stains all over the floor in front of the teacher's desk, on the side of the teacher's desk," Schachter said.

On the classroom floor, Schachter found a paper Alex had written and he took it with him.

"There was blood stains all over it, but I wanted it," he said. "It was my little boy's."

Schulman said she's advised other Parkland families going inside the 1200 building to "be prepared."

Seeing the building made her feel "like it happened yesterday," she said. "I feel like somebody told me my son was murdered again."

Schulman said she's glad the school district plans to tear the site down.

But she hopes a future memorial there won't be somber, and instead can be a place for students to have fun and laugh, like a baseball field, as a way to honor her son who had a lifelong passion for sleepaway camp. After Beigel's death, Schulman started the Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund, which sends at-risk kids touched by gun violence to camp.

Schachter said he wants the building to remain.

"They should leave it up until every legislator, every school principal, walks through that building," he said.

Schachter, who founded Safe Schools for Alex, a nonprofit looking reduce school violence, said, "After walking through there, I am even more focused and driven to make the changes necessary so that all kids can learn in a safe environment."