March 14, 2018-- the day the country's youth said everything there is to say about themselves, all in seventeen minutes, standing outside of their schools. On that fateful Wednesday, it was proclaimed that the teenagers of America acknowledged their voices, and were finally putting them to use. A nation-wide school walkout took place at exactly ten o'clock AM in an effort to honor the February 14th Douglas High School mass-shooting and call attention to the concerning amounts of gun violence in America. Especially now, gun violence has become an apparent, terrifying problem, and one that seems to get worse each day. This is why we walked: to say enough's enough.
During the walkout, my fellow peers and I stood outside for exactly seventeen minutes. The walkout itself was formulated and organized as a symbolic response to the Florida school shooting on Valentine's Day, where seventeen people lost their lives-- most of which were students-- to an armed gunman. The seventeen minutes spent outside were an act of symbolism and mourning, with one minute spared per casualty. In my eyes, the time spent was almost a bite back at some of the underreactions to the shooting, as if we were saying that these deaths cannot be erased. They deserve to be addressed. They deserve to be justified.
Often times, teenagers in society are downplayed, overtrodden, and ignored when it comes to almost anything. We're treated like toddlers, as if we need to be spoonfed. This walkout, and the sheer mass and determination behind it, crushes those ideas with the sharp, frigid truth. We're done. Children are being murdered in nothing but cold blood, and the administration has chosen to turn the other cheek. We're snapping that cheek back. These deaths, these events of nightmares, and this ever-growing body count must be addressed. The more attention we receive, the more minds can be shaken awake to the situation in front of them. This movement is about calling attention and shouting at the government, demanding change where change is due.
When it comes down to nonviolent protests such as the walkout, many wonder if their presence is even important. What kind of change can one person do? But what they don't see is that for an attention-calling act like this, there is always strength in numbers. Every massive crowd starts with one person and builds on the presence of individuals. Even the largest sea of people is simply a collection of singular bodies. The more students outside of the school protesting, the larger our chances were of grabbing the attention of others and proving our point.
As I stood outside, surrounded by friends as peers, the environment around me was nothing short of charged and energetic. Some of the more prepared, passionate students had created signs and were holding them in the air with fierce determination. Some walked around in groups, chanting phrases such as, "stop the silence, end gun violence". Others, like myself, discussed our opinions and ideas about gun control-- ways we could change the system ourselves, or at least push our message across to others.
On a personal level, I went because I'm angry. I'm angry that there's even a debate about this. I'm angry that literal children in school are taking the time to learn ways that might save them from being shot rather than doing algebra. I'm angry that after every news report of a school shooting, I take the trip to school the next day wondering, "What if we're next?" I'm angry that the administration in charge of this country has practically declared that they care more about personal profit from gun sales than they do about the lost lives of the innocent. Is the quick sale of a gun more important than the life of a human being? Schools are constantly preaching that they're designed to be safe, secure environments, free of hate. But they aren't, not anymore. What's worse is that nobody is taking responsibility for it. People are dead, and if you lack the simple decency and humanity to care about the lives of citizens other than yourself, then you shouldn't be in charge of anything.
The walkout was an act of declaration and reflection, not just upon ourselves, but upon the brutality of the situation in front of us. For the first time in too long, students are standing triumphantly and calling out the piffle of those in power. We are a burning fire, kindling the veil of the ignorant, non-commital government. From the fire, the ashes will fly, and from the ashes, new life will arise. Justice will grow and flourish, if only we give it the chance-- that chance lies with the students. As long as the fire burns, the correction and indemnification of the ignorance can follow. Listen to our voices, and change what must be changed.