On the night of the Parkland shooting, Zachary Knudson couldn’t sleep. So he turned to what he does best — designing.
The glass artist graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2005 and has lived in the area for 31 years. Some of the 17 victims killed on February 14, including Coach Aaron Feis, lived in his neighborhood.
Knudson felt devastated by the tragedy striking his hometown and needed a way to express his grief. Creating a sculpture to commemorate those who lost their lives seemed like the natural solution.
Within a few days, he completed the design: A metal and impact glass installation, standing approximately 17 feet tall and punctuated by fragments of colorful laminate. The names of the “17 angels,” as Knudson calls them, will be boldly listed on one side.
“The shape of the structure and broken lines signify shattered glass like our shattered hearts, but it still holds together strong, mended to be even stronger than before,” Knudson wrote in a Facebook post. “The sunlight passing through the colored glass and etched names will cast colorful shadows in all directions — a reminder that from darkness comes a glimmer of hope and light.”
The artist also plans to install LED lights in order for the names to shine bright through the night. He is reaching out to victims’ families so they can contribute ideas for colors and a quote to include on the sculpture.
“It’s for everyone, and we want everybody involved,” he tells CNN.
He also wants every student from Stoneman Douglas to mark their hands onto the concrete base of the piece. This way, the memorial will be surrounded by thousands of handprints “as a sign of unity.”
Knudson received an outpouring of support from his community as soon as he announced the project. Local companies, including some headed by the parents of current and former students, jumped to donate supplies.
With everything paid for, the only thing left is a place to put the sculpture.
The mayor and vice mayor of Parkland are aware and excited about the installation, Knudson says, but the city is busy dealing with the aftermath of the mass shooting.
He hopes his sculpture finds a home at a public park or at the school soon so he can bring it to life.
“As long as it’s centralized and accessible to everyone, we’re happy with wherever it goes,” he says.