Contributed by Mallory Downs
Florida shooting affects local community
PV student mourns passing of former teammate
Pascack Valley freshman Mallory Downs listened to her friend Alyssa Alhadeff as she told a joke while the two were staying in a hotel room for a soccer tournament. She looked up as another friend told a joke back to Alhadeff.
“We all turned around and Alyssa was on the floor laughing because of the joke,” Downs recalled. “She had the best laugh and was always on the floor cracking up.”
Alhadeff was one of the students who was killed at the Florida school shooting, located at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last Wednesday, Feb. 14. She was a freshman and was 14 years old.
According to her mother Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa had a passion for playing soccer. She started playing competitively at 3 years old. She met Downs through Arsenal, the travel soccer team. They played together for three years and quickly became friends.
“When I played on Arsenal with her, we both played center-mid so we were around each other all the time,” Downs said. “While on the field, she was more the kind of person that would pass the ball instead of going up to score. I felt that showed a lot about her: how she was willing to give the ball up and give other people the chance. She didn’t really put herself first, she always put others first.”
The Alhadeff family lived in Woodcliff Lake for four years. Then they moved to Florida, because they wanted to get out of the cold weather and the snow.
When she moved, Downs and the rest of her soccer team said goodbye. They wished her luck with a cake at the end of their last game together.
Downs had kept in touch with Alyssa. She didn’t text her regularly, but she contacted her every so often to see how she was doing.
Lori Alhadeff found out about the shooting through a text message from a friend that works at the high school. As soon as she heard, she threw on her sneakers, jumped into the car, and drove as fast as she could to the school.
“I could already tell that something was wrong with Alyssa,” she said when reached by phone last week. “I was calling my husband and screaming at him that he needed to come here now and that something was wrong.”
She then pulled over her car onto the sidewalk and ran as far as she could to the school until the police and yellow caution tape stopped her. She asked the police where they were bringing the injured children and they responded with three different hospitals. Alyssa wasn’t at any of them so her family went back to Parkland and stayed at a Marriott hotel.
It was eight hours until they heard that Alyssa had passed away.
Downs said that she will miss Alyssa and her smile.
“When I’m not very occupied, and I have free time, I think about her,” Downs said. “I’m still kind of in shock, because out of over 3,000 kids at her school, she happened to be one of them. When I got the news, I was really upset. I cried for a long, long time. Sometimes when I’m in bed at night, I think about her and how I’m really going to miss her.”
With this recent tragedy, Lori Alhadeff has become someone in want of change. She believes that change needs to start today.
“We need to get the guns off the street and out of the kids’ hands,” Lori Alhadeff said. “We need better gun control, but we also need more safety in the schools.”
She also believes that schools should become safer with metal detectors, armed security guards, and bullet proof doors. Lori Alhadeff also thinks there should be better advocacy of parents taking care of their children. If their child has a mental illness, the parents should get their child help. She believes they must not allow children to have access to their guns and parents should be aware of their children.
“We need this to happen today, right now,” Lori Alhadeff said. “It needs to start with the president and it needs to trickle down. We need money for all the schools to make this happen.”
Lori Alhadeff said she knows that she will remember her daughter not only as an athlete, but as a beautiful, well-rounded girl.
“Alyssa had great aspirations to be this amazing person,” Lori Alhadeff said. “She was a loving, caring, super smart, beautiful girl.”