On March 24th, approximately 850,000 students and adults took to the streets of Washington, DC., with other “sibling marches” taking place across the country, including locally in White Plains. This event, which was appropriately titled “March For Our Lives,” was completely organized by Parkland, Florida students, including Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Cameron Kasky.
These teens have become the most outspoken supporters of the gun control movement since the February 14th shooting at their high school. Other notable figures also took part in and financially supported event. The march gathered international attention, was widely covered by the media, and received praise from leaders around the world.
A Day to Remember
As plans for the march came together, I spoke with some friends from Greeley and we decided that we were not doing enough to help. So in the early morning hours of March 24th, we boarded a bus at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains to travel to Washington D.C. We arrived in D.C. at around 11 a.m., but the ride itself was particularly emotional for me because I was able to sit for the first time and reflect on what had unfolded over the last month.
As we approached the parking lot at RFK Stadium, we were swarmed by hundreds of busses filled with marchers of all ages. Once parked, we trekked towards the city with homemade banners in hand. Everywhere we walked, the surrounding community had opened their doors to offer food and support to the thousands of protesters who had come from around the country. As we walked, we took in the beauty of the city and the blooming flowers and finally arrived to the sight of the Capitol Building. I was overcome with emotion as I fully recognized the importance of the day.
Horace Greeley junior Maxwell Keilles shared his thoughts on the event. “The march was one of the most important things I feel that I’ve done and I felt great that I was able to hear such inspiring speeches from so many wonderful people.” Another Greeley junior, Jake Mikesell commented, “I chose to attend the march because I am a high school student and hearing about mass school shootings and students my age dying is horrific and should be stopped. Gun reform should be much stricter so that schools can be safer.”
Musicians & Moments of Silence
Shortly after our arrival the event commenced. Multiple musicians performed, including Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame and Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen. The two had come together to perform a song that they had written for the event. Shortly after, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School delivered heartfelt speeches. The most notable was Emma Gonzalez’s, who held a six-minute moment of silence. The six minutes represented the amount of time it took for the shooter, Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 people in Parkland. Throughout the moment of silence, the crowd yelled “never again” in perfect unison. Other teens and kids who had been directly affected by gun violence also spoke to the large crowd. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.
Gun Control Takes the National Spotlight
While students take to the streets in a call for action, lawmakers in Washington are looking at ways they can change our nation’s laws for the better. According to Politico, polls show that support for greater gun restrictions has risen dramatically since the Parkland shooting. Still, most politicians who receive funds from the NRA, refuse to deny such politically motivated payments, which has caused public outrage. The already serious issue has caused much polarization.
The events that unfolded on March 24th are not the end of this movement, they are only the beginning. Students plan on organizing numerous events and walkouts to help spread the message that “enough is enough” and that it is time to take action. These events are taking place during an important year, as the midterm elections are set to take place this fall.
Walkouts have already been planned for April 20th, which is the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School. Students are trying to figure out how they can be more active in their communities and local governments.
One piece of advice that Representative Nita Lowey shared during my recent meeting with her was to go out and vote. I found this message to be the most inspiring, since it is likely to have the most direct effect on the individuals who make our laws. For students who are not of voting age, I would encourage them to call their local representatives, voice their opinions and ask for support on specific legislation.
On April 20th, during National School Walkout, we will take the time to remember the lives of the 12 students and 1 teacher who were killed in Columbine High School 19 years ago. And we also keep in our minds all who have lost their lives to gun violence. While this has been an emotional and eye opening time for myself and my peers, this has been an opportunity for students and adults to find their voices and realize where they stand on this controversial issue and what we can accomplish together.