“You don’t realize how much of a toll (gun violence) is taking on our cities until you see it in our communities, you see it on kids you know, you see it on someone like me.” — Mya Middleton
Last weekend, I attended the tremendous rally led by student survivors of one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. March for Our Lives was a global phenomenon, with heartbreaking stories and empowering speeches from children as young as 9 being broadcasted throughout the world.
The message was clear: enough is enough. “Thoughts and prayers” aren’t going to make the cut anymore — only substantive action is acceptable.
I interviewed three Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students during my visit to Washington, D.C. “It was very surreal,” said Isaac Christian, a sophomore. “I knew I was going to be safe because I wasn’t as close to the shooter, but it hit close to home and I was very scared.”
Junior Randi Patregnani said, “When we were in the classroom, we heard kids screaming and gunshots flying everywhere.” She took a breath and her eyes began to water. “One girl pulled up the news on her phone, and that’s how we knew what was going on. We said good-bye to our families.”
Another student, who asked not to be named, added that “everybody in the closet was crying and shaking. I was just in the back offering people snacks.”
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Each student provided a unique response when describing their experience. However, all three still came to the same conclusion: they were afraid. As human beings, it was in their nature to fear for their lives or the lives of others. We all only have one life, after all. Most of the news articles I’ve read considering this topic so far have mainly focused on the need for stricter gun laws. While it is important that we address the law in an effort to reduce these horrific events from occurring, I also believe that we all should have a more humanistic point of view when facing this issue. These individuals had their own personal share of wretched emotions. When hearing the gunshots echo throughout the hallway, they weren’t thinking, “If only our lawmakers could find a way to prevent this from happening.” They were thinking, “My school is being shot up and I may die.”
All three of the interviewees’ responses has resonated with me in their distinct way. But Patregnani’s especially left an impact. As she explained how she and her classmates were texting their families good-bye, my heart felt like it was sinking into my stomach. I could only imagine the pure dread those kids felt as they thought about the possibility of a bullet blasting into their body. Even as a survivor, anyone, let alone a student as young as 14, would be a victim of that emotional trauma for the rest of their life. Statistics show that nearly 200 school shootings have taken place in America since 2000, with a variety of ages either dead or possibly suffering from extreme stress and anxiety due to such a horrendous incident. The students of Douglas High are survivors who were significantly affected — to such an extent that they are willing to rise up and demand a change for kids all across the nation to be saved from the physical, emotional and psychological anguish that they suffered.
With that said, I’m reaching out to not only the general public, but politicians, lawmakers, and congressmen. I sincerely ask you to take at least one minute to keenly think about the tragedy that just took place. But instead of worrying about what political party you identify with, at least try to identify yourself with these teens. Think about the times you’ve spent in school, and how you would’ve felt if you were in their shoes, sprinting alongside your classmates in order to dodge an oncoming bullet. After doing so, maybe, just maybe you will acquire a completely different perspective on the matter. you will hopefully realize that students all across the nation are calling out for the security of a place intended for their growth. And hopefully, you will finally open your eyes and see not just the future of America, but thousands of imperiled children looking back at you.
KAELA NICHOLLS, BOYNTON BEACH
Editor’s note: Nicholls, 16, is a sophomore at Lake Worth Christian School in Boynton Beach. She wrote this for The Palm Beach Post.
I could only imagine the pure dread those kids felt as they thought about the possibility of a bullet blasting into their body.