Sometime after 1:30 a.m., in a hotel conference room, the officer’s eyes—before he could speak—told Tom and Gina Hoyer that their youngest child was missing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. killed in a mass shooting.
You remember so little about your trip home. Almost as soon as she entered their Parkland home, Ms. Hoyer walked up the stairs to Luke’s second-floor room, untouched since he was getting ready for school in the morning. She sat on the edge of his unmade bed, near the nightstand where he kept his glasses. She was in Luke’s room at that time because she believed that if she didn’t do that task now, she might never do that task.
Two thoughts came to her mind. One thing is clear, but painful to think about: How can her family go on without Luke? The other is much less educated and harder to answer: what now? This question crystallized into other questions over the months and years: What is justice?
Luke and 16 other students and staff claim that nearly four and a half years have passed since the high school afternoon robbery on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
Luke’s trophy and other items are still on display in the bedroom of Hoyers Parkland’s home.
What Hoyes now knows is that the concept of justice changes with the tide of grief. It’s evasive, precise, and sometimes unsatisfactory. That forced her to think hard about society’s legal rules for certain convicted murderers, and the implications of another mass shooting for school safety and gun laws.
They begin to understand justice more broadly, not just for individual punishment, but for their own power to try to make sense out of tragedy by making schools safer.
“Justice is complicated,” Ms Hoyer said. “I struggled with this.” It helps, she said, to see it as something that also exists “outside the courtroom.”
As her husband put it, “We can’t bring ourselves to think about justice only in terms of this person being responsible for what they did.”
Nicolas Cruz has pleaded guilty to the October 2021 murder or attempted murder of 34 people at a Parkland school, but a jury has yet to review his verdict. In week after week of jury selection, the Hoyers upheld the concept of justice in a 17th-floor courtroom in downtown Fort Lauderdale as they sat not far from their son’s killer. They now stand by it, while a jury of seven men and five women decides whether to sentence the killer to life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.
On the first day of the sentencing process last week, Attorney General Michael J. Satz described the violence at the high school, identifying the victims and the number of times they were shot. Video recorded in the classroom was shown to the jury, and while viewers couldn’t see the footage, everyone in the courtroom could hear rumblings of gunfire, screams and calls for help.