Wednesday, March 14, 2018. As high school classes across the nation engaged in business as usual and the clock neared 10:00 a.m. the tension in classrooms grew heavy.
Teachers and students looked back and forth between the clock and each other to see, who was going to be the first? The first to walk out. The first to lead some of their generations to a gathering meant to honor the students who were forever silenced a month earlier in the February 14, 2018, attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Beyond honoring the senseless deaths resulting from this tragedy, students also walked out to fight back against gun violence in schools and the lack of action taken by Congress to address this national issue.
Students of the Da Vinci High Schools that walked out on the morning of the 14th were guided toward the north stairwell where what seemed like masses of teens slowly streamed into the parking lot. Signs reading “WE CALL B.S.” “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and “MISS 17 MINUTES OF CLASS FOR THE 17 WHO ARE MISSING THE REST OF THEIR LIVES” were held high above heads as they congregated and listened to a few key student speakers.
17 minutes for 17 students including staff was used to recite biographies of the victims; the time ran over, however, as a powerful wave of student voices demanded government action, and called “B.S.” on all the lies and excuses the government has thus far come up with for not reforming gun control laws.
Before the walkout, many were hesitant to participate, believing that walking out to honor victims is futile to real change; however, much more was done to bring attention to the growing issue of school shootings. Leaders and multiple members of the Student Task Force enacted pre-voting registration booths and phone sessions to contact members of Congress demanding action on gun control.
“During the biographies, someone told me to just read their names because we were running out of time. But I said no. I said read each and every biography because we need to honor these people,” said key walkout organizer Alexis Rodriguez, a junior at Da Vinci Science. “Honoring the victims made me aware that my lifetime, the life of any other student could be taken by gun violence. And that is one of the reasons I walked out. For my safety, the safety of the school, and the safety of schools nationwide.”
After student speakers finished giving speeches about each of the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting, the crowd took part in a moment of silence out of respect and mourning for those 17 lives lost.
The silence pervading the crowd during this moment was plainly forlorn, all heads were bowed in the end to send out remaining prayers to the victims and survivors.
After the moment passed, students made their way inside the building and even began chants while winding their way back up the stairs to their respective schools. “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to go!” rang through the building as even students that didn’t participate in the walkout but wanted to show a moment of solidarity joined in on the cry on each floor.
Every participant had a different and likely very personal reason why they walked out that Wednesday, “What makes me passionate starts with the fact that I’m not a violent person and to me it’s just sad how these things take place and we try to say that we have everything under control in our country when in reality we don’t,” said Wendy Rodriguez a senior at DVC that participated in the walkout.
“The walkout was a start, not the end. The walkout was to get these conversations going so that Congress knows that we are fed up with gun laws and how there is no gun control,” said Geovani Espinoza a sophomore at Da Vinci Communications and another student organizer of the walkout.
Not only was the walkout meant to open lines of communication between Congress and youth, but it also helped staff and students at our school build a respect for each other and our right to protest in a peaceful, organized and meaningful manner. “I have a lot more love and respect for our school, especially for the admin because I knew they couldn’t really promote the walkout because they had to stay politically neutral. Overall they were really helpful, they kept some parking spots open. Nobody was against it, they didn’t try to stop us or anything,” said Espinoza.
This national walkout was not only pivotal to honor the victims and survivors of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting but to the movement of teenage voices. One important lesson learned from this event is that using our rights to vote and our voices to advocate for laws that make our schools safer is absolutely vital.