Temple Memorial to Florida Shooting Victims Is Set Ablaze

May 20, 2019 Updated: May 20, 2019

CORAL SPRINGS, Florida—A wooden temple built as a memorial to the 17 victims of a Florida high school mass shooting was set ablaze Sunday in a symbolic gesture of healing.

The “Temple of Time” public art installation was set afire at a ceremony hosted by the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students live.

The families of several Parkland victims attended the ritual burning of the 35-foot tall temple. Described as “therapeutic” by some, the ceremonial fire was supposed to symbolize the release of pain still left inside.

Firefighters surrounded the structure as 17 people lit it up the center of the temple with torches. It took a few minutes for the fire to spread to the roof, suddenly engulfing the temple’s needle with giant flames as black smoke billowed up into the sky.

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Firefighters try to control the flames during a ceremonial burn of the “Temple of Time” built as a memorial to the 17 victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Coral Springs, Fla., on May 19, 2019. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
The “Temple of Time” built as a memorial to the 17 victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is seen on fire during a ceremonial burning in Coral Springs, Fla., on May 19, 2019. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

The timing was impeccable. The lacelike designs allowed the flames to spread evenly across the wooden structure, making it glow orange for a few minutes as the sky darkened. The temple did not burn to the ground as predicted.

Friends and loved ones had been leaving notes, photos and mementos inside the temple to honor the victims of the mass shooting since it was built in February.

“It’s kind of sad today because this temple has meant so much to so many,” said Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky. “The beauty of the temple is not the beautiful structure. It’s the people who were brought together, the messages, the love, the hope that was shared, and the resilience that has been shown by this community.”

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People gather around the “Temple of Time” on Feb. 14, 2019, in honor of the 17 that were killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018 in Coral Springs, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/File photo via AP)
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The “Temple of Time” built as a memorial to the 17 victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is seen on fire during a ceremonial burning in Coral Springs, Fla., on May 19, 2019. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

San Francisco-area artist David Best created the 1,600-square-foot Asian design with a spire roof. Most construction materials and other expenses were paid by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation.

A lone gunman’s attack killed 17 students and staffers and injured 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018.

Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Feb. 19, 2018. (Mike Stocker/Pool via Reuters)

Best and his team of volunteers and community helpers built the structure as the communities commemorated the anniversary of the mass shooting last February.

On Sunday, Best said he worried about students and others suffering in silence. He urged the community to protect one another to prevent more suicides, an apparent reference to the cases of two student survivors who committed suicide earlier this year.

“Let’s watch out for one another,” Best said. “This is a community that went through hell.”

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