An artist built a temple to help people heal after the Parkland school shooting. He’s now going to set it on fire

Posted at 1:56 AM, May 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-19 01:56:23-04
By Cat Gloria and Nicole Chavez, CNN

(CNN) — A carved plywood temple in an empty lot has served as a place for healing since the first anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. Now, hundreds are expected to see it burn on Sunday. Artist David Best built the Temple of Time just minutes away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman opened fire and killed 17 people on February 14, 2018. The massacre renewed calls for gun control legislation, prompted students to become activists and left an entire community struggling to cope with its grief.

With the help of hundreds of families in the community, Best and his team worked around the clock for two weeks to finish the temple on time for the first anniversary of the shooting. Since then, many have visited to inscribe their own messages on the temple walls and pay tribute to the victims.

“To those that cannot fight beside us, we will demolish this epidemic of hate and will harness your beautiful and strong energy to do so. To never be forgotten is to live forever. Love, MSD Class of 2013,” a note reads.

Best has been building similar wooden temples at Burning Man, an annual 10-day festival dedicated to community in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, for years. He built the non-religious structure in Coral Springs to give people a place to address their pain and grief, he said.

Like his past pieces, he created it with the intention of eventually burning it. For him, the burning isn’t destruction. It’s a way of bringing people together.

“It’s about healing and forgiveness,” Best said about the 43-foot-tall structure.

Matthew Aguilar, a graduating senior at Stoneman Douglas, walked through the temple one last time this week to write a note on a small piece of wood and left it among the hundreds of handwritten notes, photos, teddy bears and flowers draping over the structure.

“Love is what matters. It’s what is important. And it’s all that we need. Please share love,” he wrote.

The 18-year-old was a junior when the shooting happened and some of the victims were his friends.

“It was nice to have it (temple) here to comfort us and to share what we feel and how we feel about our friends and family,” he said.

The temple will be set alight at 7 p.m. Sunday. The families of Parkland shooting victims Nicholas Dworet, Gina Rose Montalto and Chris Hixon will help light the temple on fire, said Lynne Martzall, a Coral Springs spokeswoman.

Dworet, 17, was a senior at Stoneman Douglas and was known as a swimmer. Montalto, 14, was also a student and was on the winter guard team. Hixon, 49, was the school’s athletic director.

Two of the four benches surrounding the temple that were also built by Best will be given to the families of Dworet and Helena Ramsay, another student and victim of the shooting. The others will be on display in Coral Springs and Parkland, city officials said.

The Temple of Time is among five large-scale art installations being displayed in Coral Springs and Parkland over two years. The projects are an extension of an art therapy program that has turned the Coral Springs Museum of Art into a space that has helped children and educators cope since the shooting.

The future art installations include a photo documentary, a collaborative art project, an elevated walkway for a silent walk and a sign made of flowers. Four other artists from around the United States are set to lead the projects.