By the thousands they marched from Washington Square Park up to Exchange Boulevard. They carried signs that broke your heart like, “Our Bodies Aren’t Bulletproof but Our Spirits Are” and “The Time for Change was Yesterday.” But what’s more poignant than the name of the event itself–March for Our Lives? And these kids mean it literally.
In just 39 days, volunteers organized about 800 March for Our Lives rallies across America. It was just last month–Valentine’s Day–that 17 people were killed and 17 more injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Here’s a figure for you: According to the Washington Post, since the Columbine school shootings in 1999, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours. This means that the number of children who have been shaken by gunfire in the places they go to learn exceeds the population of Eugene, Ore., or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Yesterday, in Rochester, NY, and around the country, children, parents and teachers picked up the mantle. They chanted, “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?” I felt a chill that had nothing to do with the just-above-freezing temperature. I missed the ’60s protest era by 10 years but today I had some sense of what the energy, community, and surety of being on the right side of history must have felt like.
As a parent, I feel ashamed–and proud. Ashamed that our children are doing what we have not–publicly shaming the greedy politicians who take money from the NRA and pointing a finger at the gun lobbyists who care more about their perverted, paranoid perception of the 2nd Amendment than they do this nation’s children.
It’s like Dylan Holcomb, one of the organizer’s of the Rochester March for Our Lives told reporters: “Our adult counterparts have failed us, unfortunately, our legislators…statewide and on a federal level. I think that young people know that we’re all this country has left.” Wow.
Ami McMarshall, 19, a student at SUNY New Paltz, carried a sign that read, “Am I Next?” “Congress is not doing anything while kids are dying. Kids are dying and it’s not okay.”
Standing there among thousands of energized children and teens, I felt for the first time, in a visceral way, that this is the first generation of Americans that truly fear that one day a raging young man with nothing to lose might storm into their school with an assault weapon full of ammunition.
“We’re constantly planning our escape routes if there’s a school shooter,” Holcomb told reporters. “Unannounced drills instill fear in us like no other.”
Amanda Lawlan of Rochester turned out with her 18-month-old twins, Ember and Willow, who wore matching wool hats. “I used to live in South Korea and there were hardly any guns there,” said Lawlan.
Indy Marina, Alison Zell and Kennedy Robinson, seniors at Allendale-Columbia, came to the March together.
“The kids in Parkland are getting people to pay attention,” said Marina. “We are all 18, we’re of voting age and our voices matter.”
“We won’t rest until it stops,” added Robinson.