Parkland victims memorialized with turtle nest

Parkland turtle
1. Paul and Ellen Devine have adopted a turtle nest through Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring. The plaque says, “This very special sea turtle nest has been donated by Ellen and Paul Devine in memory of the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives 2/14/18 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida.” - Submitted | Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

When Brianna Villegas Vindiola saw the Adopt-a-Nest plaque dedicated to the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day, it made her think of her brothers.

“It was an emotional moment for me,” said the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring intern, who is studying at Florida Atlantic University, majoring in environmental science.

The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead and 17 more wounded. Shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, is awaiting trial in a death penalty murder case.

Vindiola attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as a senior. Her two younger brothers, 15 and 17, currently attend the school, and were there at the time of the shooting, surviving uninjured, she said.

“One actually talked to Nikolas Cruz,” she said.

The plaque made her stop and remember.

That’s what Paul and Ellen Devine had hoped.

The Bradenton couple, who lived not far from the high school in Parkland for about 20 years, adopted a turtle nest on the Island to commemorate the victims of the massacre.

“We knew the school,” Ellen Devine said. “We don’t have any children, but we know a lot of people over there. My husband’s brother’s two sons had gone to that school, so it kind of touched home.”

The Devines have been adopting turtle nests for the three years they’ve lived in Bradenton, one for Paul Devine’s birthday, one for his mother, and this year, for the Parkland victims.

At the excavation of the nest dedicated to her mother-in-law, Ellen Devine said the couple was excited to see a straggler in the nest released to the sea.

“We will eagerly be waiting to hear about this nest hatching,” she said.

And when the nest hatches, Vindiola plans to deliver one of the two plaques marking the nest to the high school in Parkland.

“It ties you to something bigger than yourself,” she said.

You can adopt a turtle nest through Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.