One month after 14 students and three staff members were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students and teachers across the nation joined together in protest and outrage, demanding change.
On March 14, I stood with many of my peers at Eagle Rock High School in silence for 17 minutes around 17 empty desks bearing flowers and the names of those lost on the tragic day. It was the type of silence that said more than words. The quiet was deafening, until it was quiet no longer.
Many students had arrived wearing or carrying various symbols of outcry, including orange shirts and orange balloons to signify solidarity with the people in Parkland. It was the accidental popping of one of these balloons that broke the silence and, in that instant, amplified why we were there.
The reaction to the sound of that balloon popping was a split second of fear, a moment in which every pair of eyes around the crowd widened to the direction of the pop. The atmosphere changed in that second. It could be us. It could be here. After this fleeting moment of panic, the silence returned with a shaky exhalation, but it was anything but relief being felt.
To see the eyes of the people you’ve grown up with, learned with, laughed with, fill with a noiseless panic at the sound of a balloon popping – a sound that should evoke nothing more than a child’s birthday party – filled me with even greater rage than I was already carrying. There was little consolation felt in the crowd surrounding those desks, because though we were there in mourning, in sadness, in grief, we were there in even greater anger, vexation and disbelief.
I was the first of a handful of students to speak out using words during the walkout. I said that 17 minutes is not nearly the same thing as 17 lives and that our protest was a start but nowhere close to where we need to be.
Students are angry. The time for silence has passed. Our words will grow in force day by day and we won’t stop until we are heard.
Hundreds of thousands of young people and their supporters turned out nationwide on Mar. 24 to call for gun control. More “March for Our Lives” events are planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the school shooting massacre in Columbine.
The words of Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998), a journalist, author, women’s suffragist and conservationist, are a guide: “Be a nuisance where it counts; Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.”
Lani Tunzi is in the 10th grade at Eagle Rock High School