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As students arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the start of the new school year on Wednesday, they found a tall new fence surrounding the perimeter, banners draped along the exterior willing them to be "#MSDStrong," and a fresh coat of burgundy paint in the hallways.

Each in its own way was an attempt to mark the setting as a place of learning and reassure its occupants of a fortified safety within its walls.

At a news conference held on the school lawn, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie called it a "bittersweet day."

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Bonita Carlson grew up on a ranch in Northeast Wyoming. One time her mom was gone and she helped out with the laundry. Along with her clothes she threw in some of her dad's shirts.

"When I opened the washing machines [I] saw all of his records from the whole year of that calf crop ... was destroyed in the washing machines," recalls Carlson.

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