Not too long ago, they heard gunshots ringing in their ears. Now they hear, “Never Again,” the mantra of their movement. Glancing to my left as I sauntered out of the grubby green bus I rode into the city, I took in Washington in all of its glory. I looked at the azure sky, cloudless because all the rain had already passed. Car horns honked; birds chirped, and millions of people chattered about what would happen on this monumental day. I took in the scent of the city, a scent so ingrained in the very stones I march on that nothing could ever wash it away.
As I walked into Union Station, the aggressive, white lights blinded me for a moment, but my eyes caught up quickly, excited to see what was happening around them. A woman in a vibrant yellow baseball cap inquired, “Are you here for the march?”
My mother exclaimed, “Yes!” and the volunteer pointed us in the right direction.
My heart swelled as we walked out of the bus station into the enormous crowd that had formed. The warm sun on my face reminded me the world can be good, and the gentle nudge from my sister reminded me I wasn’t alone. I know she was just as nervous as I, but both she and my mom knew that this means more to me than it ever will to them. Andra Day’s “Rise Up” blasted through the streets like waves of beautiful sound crashing over us. It almost seemed like there were millions jammed in the wide street. My face heated up in anger as I heard people asking each other, “Have you seen this tweet?” while copious amounts of people are being gunned down every day. The gentle spring air cooled my face as I remembered that this is a day of remembrance and love, not resentment and anger. As I ventured farther into the crowd, I saw pain in people too young to ever deserve the pain they’ve been handed. With the pain I saw laughter, smiles, and greatest of all, I saw hope. I saw hope in the dark, sunken eyes of teenagers that watched their classmates be murdered weeks before. I saw hope in the eyes of parents that pray that their own will never see tragedy as horrendous as others have. I saw hope in the eyes of students like myself, who wanted to prevent something like this ever happening again.
The speakers began, and as each speech went by, my heart crumbled more and more. My heart pounded as I heard eleven-year-old Naomi Wadler speak out about the horrific crimes against black women she has witnessed. My heart ached as I heard millions of people chant, “Ricardo,” for a boy who lost his life decades too soon. My heart shattered as Samantha Fuentes led the million in attendance in a melancholy rendition of “Happy Birthday” for her friend, a victim of the Parkland shooting, for his eighteenth birthday. My heart crushed when Yolanda Renee King cried, “I have a dream that enough is enough.” My heart splintered into razor-sharp fragments every second that Emma Gonzalez stood in silence for the seventeen gunned down at her school. My heart fractured into sharp, irreparable pieces because of this day.
Never again will gun violence take my generation. Never again will I have to worry about going to school because I fear for my life. Never again will a nineteen-year-old boy be able to obtain weapons intended to slaughter. Because of this day, because of these survivors, because my generation is tired of seeing their peers gunned down without pause -- this problem will be stopped. Never again, America. Never again.