Remembering Parkland victims with walkout, demanding safety

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One student stood halfway up a half-frozen snow bank with three peers, megaphone in hand, while three others crouched on the cement below, using blue and red lighters to light white tea lights in glass votives. “Alyssa Alhadeff, 14,” senior Erica Lemcke began. “Scott Beigel, 35,” she continued. Lemcke read off 15 more names and ages: the 17 victims of the Parkland, Fl. shooting.

Fourteen students and three teachers passed away after a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. walked into his old school and fatally shot 17 people on Feb. 14. To call for safer schools and in honor of those who have lost their lives, not only in Parkland, but in every school shooting, a group of students planned a school-wide, 17-minute walkout.

Multiple hundreds of students joined the rest of the country in a school walkout on March 14 at 10 a.m. The students crowded out the main doors, past the cafeteria and down to the plaza, just outside of the Pony Activities Center, exercising their First Amendment rights to promote school safety.

“I think now is the time to be respectful and to mourn victims and to make a change that works for everyone, not just a certain political party, but to make our schools safe,” Lemcke said.

I think now is the time to be respectful and to mourn victims and to make a change that works for everyone, not just a certain political party, but to make our schools safe.”

— Erica Lemcke

Seniors Hannah Gilsdorf, Chelsea Lai and Maggie Jones kneeled on the ground in front of a crowd. They lit tea lights and a moment of silence was called. For about two minutes, all was silent as some observers cried and hugged one another among a mass of their peers, an estimated several hundred students.

“I teared up because all of those candles represent human lives that were lost. It really hit me. Seventeen is a lot of people. It’s too many and just sitting there in complete silence [was emotional],” Gilsdorf said.

Most of the walkouts around the nation have been organized by students, including the one held outside the Pony Stadium. Since most high schoolers are not of age to vote, some are attempting to sway public policy in any way they can.

“We may not be able to vote now, but we will be able to vote in one, two years, and our votes will matter, and our votes will change who is in Congress and they will hopefully make an impact on what they decide to do for legislation,” Gilsdorf said.

The organizers are looking forward to potentially planning an April 20 event similar to the March 14 walkout, and are hopeful they would have the same participation and energy weeks from now, but have no plans yet.

“We have a lot of support. We have a lot of people who are angry, and this isn’t going to go away,” Gilsdorf said. “It’s still going to be just as important and matter just as much in April as it did yesterday, as it did a month ago, as it has since Columbine.”

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