On March 14, thousands of students across the country walked out of their classrooms and lecture halls right out into the street. Some held homemade signs that were raised high above their heads. Some were armed with only their voices, their fists, and their courage. The message resounding across these United States, Not One More.
For those of you who don’t keep up with the dystopian universe we seem to have fallen into, the National School Walkout was a nationwide protest organized by high schoolers in which students across the country walked out of their schools in protest from 10:00am to 10:17am in order to advocate for gun control. The walkout was on the one month anniversary of the most recent school shooting, in Parkland Florida, in which Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people in under three minutes with an assault rifle.
Since then, high schoolers across the country have stepped up and begun advocating for common sense gun control. Their demands including more thorough background checks, raising the minimum age to buy guns, and banning civilian use of assault rifles, to start. The youngest among us have been leading protests across the country that have included a lie-in in front of the White House, 7,000 pairs of shoes on the U.S. Capitol lawn (each one representing a child killed from gun violence since the Newtown shooting in 2012, according to USA Today), and of course the walkout.
Most notably, the survivors from the Parkland shooting have taken a lead role in the fight for gun control, often speaking in front of crowds and appearing on the news. Every time, the students are stone faced and completely done with this bullshit. They fearlessly call out our politicians to stop taking the NRA’s dirty money and choose our children’s lives instead.
Nevertheless, there have been many critics of these “children”, people who claim that youngsters aren’t going to be able to solve anything because they can’t possibly understand adult issues like these. They’re still in school, what do they know?
What these critics don’t realize is that even those students lucky enough to have never gone through a shooting know what an “intruder drill” is. Every student in America has had to scrunch up against the wall out of view of the door while their teacher turned the lock and shut out the lights. Every student knows what it is to wait there for ten minutes in stifled giggles and murmurs until the principal came back on the loudspeaker, ending the drill, and sending everyone back to their desks.
Each mass shooting we saw, every time we watched on TV while mothers wept over their dead kids and students sobbed over their lost classmates, the intruder drills became more real. With each tragedy we saw play out in schools that looked and sounded and probably smelled just like ours, the drills became less and less of a joke. The laughter fading away as every student imagined a real intruder, holding a gun far too big to fit in a locker and wondering what they would do if they were faced with that reality.
The truth is that every student in any school in America knows what it is to be afraid to go to school, terrified by the thought that today it could be you.
The funny thing is that students leading this movement is the only thing that really makes sense. Thousands of teenagers who are sick and tired of having to fear for their lives during math class, tired of having to wait silently in the dark while someone outside the door jiggled the door handle and checked the lock, knowing full well that a locked door wouldn’t stop a shooter.
The reality of it is that we are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the ones who are going to end this, once and for all. We have been raised on all sorts of heroines and heroes in books and movies and comics. Katniss Everdeen, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Tris. Kids just like us who overcame the sick situations they had found themselves in in order to bring justice to the world. Risking their lives and overcoming incredible obstacles to do the thing they knew was right.
We have been born and bred on these heroes, and been raised to believe that we can do anything we set our minds to. Taught by our favorite characters that it didn’t take money or brute strength to be a hero, all it took was a good heart and a little bit of courage. And a little bit of magic never hurt.
So why not us? Why can’t we be the ones to change history? To stop the rampant school shootings? To end the maddening never ending cycle of “thoughts and prayers”, silence, and then more death? Who says we can’t fix this when we’ve got so much experience fighting corrupt governments and monsters and ones who can’t be named?
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for and we are going to change everything. This is just the start.