By Emily Dwyer
On Wednesday, March 14, exactly one month after the senseless tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School, students across the nation rose from their seats, broke from their routines, and walked out of their school buildings. The students remained outside for 17 minutes, to honor the 17 heroes who lost their lives in the shooting. Signs of protest were held in the air and orange, the color of gun violence awareness, was visible like a sea of hope pouring from doors across the country. Centereach High School students proudly participated in this movement that was bigger than ourselves.
Some students did not walk out. Some said they thought either this method was ineffective, or that they thought simply “walking up not out” would work better, meaning trying to talk to alienated individuals rather than advocating for gun control and policy reform. My response was simply, why is it one or the other? Why can students not march hand in hand with their fellow classmates, participating in an act of unity and power that brings awareness to the root of the problem of gun violence, and also be kind to their peers? Inclusion and kindness are valuable things to spread within a school, but without gun control and reform, the epidemic of school shootings will not end. By walking out, we are not simply avoiding class. We are not just standing outside. It is far more symbolic than that. By walking out, we are broadcasting to our leaders that we will not stand for our lives being sacrificed for profit. We will not stand for the fear we must face on a daily basis when we are just trying to get an education. We will not stand for the inaction and thoughts and prayers any longer. We will stand up and yell “enough is enough” until not one more person loses his or her life to a weapon that should not have fallen into the hands of the perpetrator in the first place.
For those of us who chose to walk out, our fight did not end after those 17 minutes and after reentering the building. We may have gone back to class and continued with the routine of our daily lives- but we are not the same as we were before. Our eyes and hearts have been opened and our voices have united to end the silence on this issue. Conversations on solutions to the gun epidemic can be heard in classrooms, hallways, and buses. When a shooting occurs, like the one in Maryland on March 21, students discuss it. While some students did not walk out with their peers, and some disagreements ensue, all conversations on the issue indicate further awareness- and awareness is the first step to solving the problem. On March 24, many students joined hands and continued the fight at the March for Our Lives occurring nationally. We are mobilizing. We are taking action. If our representatives will not stand up for our lives, we will do it ourselves. We may be young, but that does not mean we are complacent and ignorant. It simply means we have our entire futures ahead of us to fight this fight for future generations- and we all deserve futures. As Delaney Tarr, Parkland survivor says “We’ve had enough of thoughts and prayers…To every lawmaker out there: No longer can you take money from the NRA. No longer can you fly under the radar doing whatever it is that you want to do … We are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action.”
The NRA can threaten us. Those against reform can attack us all they want. Those in office can try to ignore us. They cannot silence us.