A year ago, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hid under their desks and inside closets, terrified for their lives. A year ago, 17 innocent lives were lost in a school shooting. That day was beyond devastating. I remember how afraid I felt, because I thought: that could have been my school. Today needs to be remembered — not just for the flowers and balloons — but for the calamity that sparked a movement.
When I saw promotions for the CNN Town Hall Meeting with the Parkland students, I was honestly shocked. People my age were going to talk to government officials on live television? I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was totally engrossed. The students began to talk, and I was in awe of their determination. They had all the facts, they picked out every single loophole, and they were not afraid to call anyone out. Then the moment came when Cameron Kasky, a student from MSD, asked Senator Marco Rubio, “can you tell me you won’t be accepting a single penny from the NRA?”
That is when I saw it: the young people are going to create change.
I understood that they were hard at work because within a few days, the March For Our Lives Instagram page was up and running. The movement was growing, and the students were already fighting for change. But that came with consequences. Teenagers who were advocating for school safety were being ridiculed by adults. By adults. Emma Gonzales, a founder of the MFOL movement said, “In the days after the shooting, it was strange seeing adults not immediately scoff at our youth. For what seemed like the first time in m life, they wanted to broadcast the words of young people. They started to listen. And they also wanted to broadcast our words to people who had never had a reason to know or care who we were until now” (Gonzales, 25).
When the news began to “die down,” things were starting to fade away, but the students would not let that happen. They faced the accusations from others, but they continued to build up the movement.
On March 25th, thousands of people all across the country gathered in different cities for the March For Our Lives rally. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to march alongside so many people. I was initially scared, because I had never gone to a protest or rally in my life. But when I was there, I really and truly felt the goodwill of the people bunched up around me. I saw young children in red wagons, I saw older ladies in wheel chairs. This movement was started by the young people, and it had support from all ages. I also saw signs, many of which were memes. And as silly as that sounds, it was such a powerful moment. This choice of expression truly shows that this is a youth-led movement — for the youth. We trudged through the heat, shoulders touching random strangers, but it was where I felt the most proud. If there were this many people in Austin, Texas alone, there are many, many, many more people around the country that supported the youth.
Daniel Williams, also a part of the movement said, “It meant a lot to see so many high schoolers from around the country come to D.C. to support us. There were kids everywhere. This was truly a young people’s march. I’m sad that it took a tragedy at my school for me to get involved in this cause, but it means a lot that young people across the country saw what happened, heard us speak out, and wanted to stand alongside us that day” (Williams, 149).
What happened in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 was beyond traumatic — no child, no teenager should ever have to experience such loss. And this is what the movement fights for. A valid and humane cause. They are the leaders that I am excited to see in the future.
They have proven that age does not matter; that we can fight for what we want, and that we don’t have to wait for others to make change — because we make the change ourselves.
This movement continues to advocate for change with larger voter turnouts and school safety.
I end with this segment from Cameron Kasky’s speech: “Welcome to the revolution. It is a powerful and peaceful one because it is of, by, and for the young people of this country” (Kasky, 159).
(Featured Image Credit: Chanelle Librada Reyes, ‘Never Again’)