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Laurie Giordano, left, and Lori Alhadeff speak Thursday, March 5, 2020, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)
Laurie Giordano, left, and Lori Alhadeff speak Thursday, March 5, 2020, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)

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Florida mothers united in tragedy push lawmakers to act

Linked over their grief and their efforts to bring about change.

For months, Laurie Giordano had been telling the story of her son to anyone who would listen — of how her Zach, a strapping 16-year-old football player, should never had collapsed in the sweltering Florida heat nearly three years ago. He died days later.

For weeks, Giordano has been driving six hours each way to meet with lawmakers in the state Capitol to push them to act, to understand the unbearable grief of a parent trying to bring meaning to a child’s death.

At the Capitol in Tallahassee, Giordano crossed paths Thursday with Lori Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa in the Parkland school shooting. Both spoke about how tragedy and loss is motivating them to lobby for legislation meant to save other children and other parents from suffering.

Giordano and Alhadeff are linked over their grief of losing children and working to get lawmakers to make schools safer, albeit in different ways.

Alhadeff was back to urge lawmakers to require panic buttons at schools to more quickly summon for help. That was one of many school safety measures spawned by the shootings on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17. The bill, known as “Alyssa’s Law,” requires each public elementary, middle, and high school campus, including charter schools, to put in place a mobile system to alert authorities of emergencies.

And Giordano was again at the Capitol to take a seat at the public gallery overlooking the Senate floor, where lawmakers unanimously approved a bill renamed the “Zachary Martin Act.” The legislation would require public schools across Florida to do more to prevent heat-related injuries and deaths.

For a few minutes, they spoke about their children and their shared mission. Giordano admired the pendant hanging from Alhadeff’s neck that bears Alyssa’s smiling face.

“I don’t know how everything went down in your tragedy, but I just kept thinking that help was on the way,” Alhadeff told Giordano about that fateful day in February 2018.

“And help was not on the way,” Giordano interrupted, finishing Alhadeff’s thought.

Another Florida mother suffering a loss, Denise Williams, roamed the Capitol Thursday to begin lobbying for a new law in the name of her daughter Terissa Gautney, who died on a school bus in 2018.

Since losing their daughter, Williams and her husband have been pushing school boards and seeking the help of lawmakers to require life-saving training for school bus drivers and better communications equipment on school buses.

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