Two Latter-Day Saint Girls Numbered among Victims of Mass Shooting at Florida High School
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News associate editor
- Alaina Petty, 14, a freshman and a Mia Maid, was killed in the attack that claimed 17 lives.
“To all of the victims and their loved ones, we extend our love. These are hours filled with grief, emptiness, and a terrible sense of loss. We unite our prayers with millions of others who are mourning and praying for them.” —Official Church statement
The family of Alaina Petty, a Mormon teen who was killed in Wednesday’s Florida school shooting rampage, is “heartbroken” by the loss of their loved one.
Comfort, they said, is being found “in our Heavenly Father’s plan.”
Alaina Petty, 14, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a Mia Maid from the Coral Springs Ward, was killed in the attack that claimed 17 lives.
Her fellow ward member, Madeleine Wilford, 17, a junior at the school, was shot in the arm and back and underwent multiple surgeries at a nearby hospital.
Madeleine will likely undergo further surgeries “but has been stabilized,” said Coral Springs Florida Stake President Stephen Smith. “Doctors are optimistic she will make a strong recovery.” (See related story.)
President Smith estimated 12 Mormon students attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Both Alaina and Madeleine have siblings at the large public school.
Alaina’s family issued a statement on Thursday:
“We are heartbroken by the loss we feel in the tragedy that unfolded yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Our hearts go out to the families of all impacted by this tragedy, and our prayers are for their comfort and healing. We wish to thank our family, friends, and the community for the love and support demonstrated to our family.
“It is impossible to sum up all that Alaina was and meant to her family and friends. Alaina was a vibrant and determined young woman, loved by all who knew her. Alaina loved to serve. She served her community through her participation in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas JROTC program and her countless hours of service as a volunteer for the Helping Hands program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alaina was part of hundreds of volunteers that rushed to the most heavily impacted areas of Florida to clean up and help rebuild the lives of those devastated by Hurricane Irma.
“Her selfless service brought peace and joy to those that had lost everything during the storm. We will not have the opportunity to watch her grow up and become the amazing woman we know she would become, but we are keeping an eternal perspective. We are grateful for the knowledge that Alaina is a part of our eternal family and that we will reunite with her. This knowledge and abiding faith in our Heavenly Father’s plan give us comfort during this difficult time.”
The Petty family went on to thank the many people who had demonstrated bravery during the shooting and had helped save lives. They also expressed thanks to the first responders at the shooting scene, “bringing an end to yesterday’s violence.”
Friends and fellow ward members have also rallied to support Madeleine’s family.
“They are grateful for the miracle that is Madeleine’s life,” said President Smith.
The stake leader belongs to the Coral Springs Ward, so he knows each of the girls well and has watched them grow up over the years.
He called Alaina “a fun girl who is always a joy to be around. She reached out to other girls and loves to help others.”
Madeleine, he said, is a talented basketball player and an “enthusiastic girl who loves life.”
The suffering in the aftermath of the shooting is felt far beyond the Coral Springs Ward. “It’s a shock,” said President Smith. “No one thinks something like this could have happened in our neighborhood and community.”
The Mormon community in south Florida demonstrated their grit and unity following Hurricane Irma, he added. “We will rally together during this [tragedy], just as we did following the hurricane.”
On Thursday, the Church released a statement, saying: “Once again we find ourselves as a nation and as communities faced with a tragic loss of life and incomprehensible sorrow following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Among the many injured or killed were two members of our faith. To all of the victims and their loved ones, we extend our love. These are hours filled with grief, emptiness, and a terrible sense of loss. We unite our prayers with millions of others who are mourning and praying for them.”