Carmen Schentrup
Friends honor victim's birthday by protesting
00:48 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Florida school shooting victim Carmen Schentrup would have turned 17 years old on Wednesday, and her classmates and survivors of the massacre marked her birthday by flooding the state capital to demand stronger gun control laws.

And Carmen was on the minds of her Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School classmates. They talked proudly of her wit, her intelligence and sweetness.

“She was a National Merit finalist, but unfortunately the letter arrived in the mail the day after she passed, so she never knew that,” Stoneman Douglas student Ariana Ortega told lawmakers in Tallahassee, adding that her classmate was among a select group of 15,000 students.

“She was going to change the world, and I’m sure of that. But she doesn’t have the chance now,” Ortega said.

Carmen, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, was named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist last year, the school’s Eagle Eye student blog reported in September.

These are the victims of the Florida school shooting

Carmen and 16 others died at the hands of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz last week at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. The victims included a football coach, an athletic director and several 14-year-old students.

Cruz has confessed to the shooting and is facing charges of premeditated murder. He is willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, according to the public defender’s office representing him.

Carmen’s funeral was Tuesday, one of five services that day.

Stoneman Douglas senior Julia Bishop, 18, attended Carmen’s funeral and then boarded a bus for the caravan to Tallahassee.

“I was there, but in my head, I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do to move forward from this? What am I going to do with my grief? What am I going to do with my hate?’ ” Bishop told CNN on Tuesday.

Her friend was witty, smart, insightful, “the absolute sweetest,” Bishop said on the bus.

She had a bright future, and “it’s disgusting that that was taken away from her,” Bishop said.

CNN’s Eric Levenson and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.