17 lost lives. 2,972 students. Somewhere between 1,380,666 to 2,181,886 people at 763 March for Our Lives locations. A nation full of people supporting victims and demanding change. On February 14, 2018, a gunman armed with an AR-15 entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida, shooting and killing 17 victims. A small Florida city turned national news, the residents and story of Parkland has evoked change, not only in their own town, but in a nationwide sense. States including California, Kansas and Wisconsin have joined Parkland to take a seemingly hopeless atrocity and turn it into a national call for action.
“Before that, we were just Parkland, Florida. People would ask, ‘Where’s Parkland?’ and it’s like ‘Oh, Fort Lauderdale, Miami,” MSD junior Lilah Skinner said. “But now everyone knows where Parkland is. It’s just weird seeing it everywhere, like on Twitter and Google. We can’t even search up our school’s website without the shooting popping up.”
Amongst the grieving and mass attention the Parkland students had to deal with, they decided to turn their emotions into actions and start the #NeverAgain movement, which calls for gun control through sources such as Twitter, marches held throughout the country and nationwide protests. The call to action taken by MSD students spread quickly to communities and high schools nationwide in a way unseen before.
“I think a lot of the reason the Parkland students were different from other shootings is that they were actually educated and of an age where they could actually speak out,” San Francisco’s Lull High School junior Olivia Moss said. “Whereas in the Sandy Hook shooting, they were small children and so they couldn’t really do anything about it.”
All across the United States, more high schoolers have decided to get involved with the movement, organizing marches and protests in their communities. Many of these students credit their recent activism to the of the survivors in Parkland.
“The Parkland kids? They’re not gonna stop and they’re never gonna stop until they can finally say that they have helped something that affected them so greatly,” Wisconsin’s Stoughton High School senior Natalie Zientek said. “Every time, our congress people say ‘It’s not the time to talk about it. Let people grieve.’ But the kids themselves are like ‘I don’t want to grieve. I want to make change.’ And that’s how we’re gonna make change.”
Thus far, the changes made have been through the school system, not through policy change. Students at MSD are now required to wear clear, see through backpacks and there have been talks at Stoughton High School of banning backpacks all together. People quickly reacted to the clear backpacks at MSD with accusations of creating an allusion of safety instead of actually fixing the problem.
“I think they’re trying to implement systems at school with metal detectors, but anyone could walk into school with a gun in their backpack,” Kansas’ Shawnee Mission East High School junior Meredith Norden said. “You can’t rely on that, so I think you need to stop the problem at the root which is people who are buying guns and people who are developing guns that are intended for mass homicide.”
The students of Parkland have created a new sort of revolution and have no plans to stop pushing forward. Young people all over the country are joining with them to stand in solidarity, demanding a change. While being active in the movement may seem daunting, MSD junior Morgan Williams had a message for anyone who wants to help:
“I’ve gotten DMs from people saying they’re not doing enough, but doing stuff at your school or tweeting or retweeting or just anything goes such a long way and it’s really important.”