Two Years Later: Honoring MSD

Much has been done, but little has changed since the shooting in Parkland, Florida two years ago.

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photo by Lucie Flagg

The deaths of 17 students and staff members in Parkland, FL two years ago sparked a new age of political demonstrations.

I remember the day so well.

February 14, 2018: A gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and took the lives of 17 student and staff members.

A news notification popped up on my phone screen as I was walking out of school on that Valentine’s Day two years ago. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something along the lines of, “SHOOTING IN PARKLAND, FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL.” I dwelled briefly on the tragedy and then immediately swiped the notification off my screen.

The whole bus ride home, however, new developments and notifications kept flooding in.

“SEVERAL INJURIES CONFIRMED IN FLORIDA SHOOTING”

“CONFIRMED DEATH IN PARKLAND HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING”

Notification banners flooded my phone, and I started to grow truly concerned. As I exited the bus, I immediately started to run home. The news doesn’t go anywhere, but, for some reason, I just felt like I had to see what was happening at that very moment. I went up to my bedroom and started to watch NBC News live on my phone. That night, I watched the news for hours. Even crying, my eyes were still glued to the screen.

I didn’t have any personal connection to the victims of the shooting to spark the emotions I felt, but I just couldn’t stop crying. There was something about watching a line of kids with hands on their heads walk out of their school that moved me profoundly. Reporters interviewed parents and siblings who were scared and didn’t know whether their loved one was alive.

photo by Lucie Flagg
The March for Our Lives brought millions of people together in protest of the current gun laws.

We’ve all heard it, but it’s the truth — that day, or any day, MSD could have been North Allegheny. It’s an absolutely terrifying thought.

Looking back, however, there was something miraculous about that day and many of the days following February 14th that resonated inside the people affected by the shooting: hope. Hope for life, for peace amongst death, but most of all, hope for change.

Within just days of the shooting, MSD students and those in the Parkland community sprung into action against gun violence. Survivors Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky, and Jaclyn Corin created the activist group “Never Again MSD,” which occupied front-page news in the following weeks.

The following month, on March 14th, a nationwide school walkout was organized, where students around the country left their classes at 10:00 AM for seventeen minutes — one minute for each life lost during the Parkland shooting. The day of the walkout showed great division in our school. Every student wanted to stand up for what they believed in, and their choice to leave class or stay caused great controversy.

I walked out that day. Among a crowd of peers, most of whom I had never spoken to, something magical happened — we united.

Later that month, Never Again MSD organized the March for Our Lives in our nation’s capital and over 800 sister marches in other cities. The protesters took to the streets, urging stricter gun laws to reduce violence. Across all of the cities that participated, it was reported that as many as two million people marched, making the event one of the largest protests in American history.

I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the march, and the experience gave me a much deeper understanding of the issues going on in our country.  “I have a dream that enough is enough,” said Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., that day. I listened to those words, and I will never take that moment for granted. At just nine years old, she possessed the strength to stand in front of the world and honor the words of her late grandfather. I won’t ever forget her final words on that stage: “All across the nation, we are going to be a great generation.”

Now more than ever, teens have a voice in politics, and I’d like to think the students of MSD are to thank for that.”

It’s hard for me to believe that this shooting occurred two years ago. Acknowledging that very little has changed politically, in terms of gun laws, is difficult, especially for someone who has looked up to the leaders of Never Again MSD so much in the past two years. Going beyond gun laws, however, the shooting in Parkland opened up a new level of respect towards the voices of younger generations. Now more than ever, teens have a voice in politics, and I’d like to think the students of MSD are to thank for that.

Yet fear continues to linger in students across the nation, even those who haven’t been affected by gun violence. With so much talk in the news about schools who have experienced shootings, no one can blame us for living in fear when we enter school each morning.

During my freshman year, NAI went into lockdown and quickly evacuated due to a bomb threat. In the few minutes that the lockdown lasted, no one around me knew what was happening. At the time, the MSD shooting was a fresh topic in the news, and I was overwhelmed with fear because of it. Even just the other week, I was walking down the hallway and it seemed far quieter than usual. Five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but my first instinct was fear that something bad was happening.

We currently live in a split country, but I refuse to accept that we can no longer make progress. I don’t want to have to live in fear of a shooting for the rest of my life, or my future children’s lives. Seventeen innocent lives were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but that’s not all. On average, around 100 Americans are killed every day by guns. There must be a better way. We cannot accept that the status quo is the best we can do.

Honoring these lives with “thoughts and prayers” simply isn’t enough. We must not forget the work that has been done and the work that still must occur. Many future lives rest in our hands, and we have the opportunity to fight for a safer and better America — to fight for the students and staff at schools like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who no longer can.