The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, have lived through a nightmare. On Wednesday, February 14, a gunman opened fire at their school, killing 17 people. The teens who survived were witness to classmates and teachers being shot. Now some of the survivors are taking action.
They are using their personal experience to try to convince politicians to pass gun control measures and to call out those who are unwilling to discuss the issue.
The Valentine's Day shooting in Parkland was the 18th shooting at an educational institution in the US in 2018. The number includes suicides and incidents where no one was injured.
The fact that shootings happen so frequently is making many Americans angry at their government and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for creating an environment in which even the smallest gun control proposals come up against fierce resistance. At an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, MSD student Emma Gonzalez gave voice to the anger she and her classmates felt.
"If all our government and our president can do is send 'thoughts and prayers,' then it's time for victims to be the change we need to see," Gonzalez said. "We, we are going to be the kids that you read about in textbooks…We are going to be the last mass shooting."
'This shouldn't be happening anymore'
One MSD student named Carly emphasized on Twitter that guns should be at the center of the discussion about what happened at her school. Carly's tweet came as a reply to conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren, who had tweeted that the Left was trying to "push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda."
"Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms and that is not acceptable," MSD senior David Hogg told the Washington Post.
Hogg and a group of students ended up hiding in a closet during the shooting, where Hogg started interviewing his classmates and taping their opinions on gun control with his phone. He said he didn't know whether anyone in the closet would survive, but that he hoped his footage would spur action if it was found.
One of the students Hogg recorded is Isabelle Robinson.
"I really don't think there's anything new to say, but there shouldn't have to be," Robinson said in the video. "If you looked around in this closet and saw everyone just hiding together, you would know that this shouldn't be happening anymore."
In an interview with CNN, Hogg said he believed there was something seriously wrong with his country.
"Some of our policy makers, they need to look in the mirror and take some action," Hogg said. "Because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die."
The voice of their generation
Sergio Rozenblat, the father of a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said on TV channel MSNBC that he wished someone "would film these kids and then show it to the politicians with their speeches, their empty speeches."
In the days of smartphones and social media, however, no one needs to film the students – they are making sure that pundits are not just talking about them, but that they, the survivors, are part of the conversation.
MSD student Kyra wrote on Twitter that she and her classmates were going to be "the voice of this generation" despite their grief. They were going to make their voices heard, she said.
With 14 students and three faculty members dead, the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school is among the deadliest school shootings in modern US history. In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado took the lives of 13 people before killing themselves. In 2012, a shooter killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut before fatally shooting himself in the head.
MSD students are old enough to remember the Sandy Hook massacre. One student named Isabel pointed out on Twitter that because gun control wasn't tightened after Sandy Hook, she and her fellow MSD students are now "left traumatized."
But this time, maybe things will change. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are old enough to voice their opinions, organize and put a lot of pressure on politicians. They have technology at their fingertips to make themselves heard, that the victims of the Columbine massacre, for example, didn't have. And they are determined to fight the powerful gun lobby in the United States and get tougher laws on who can buy firearms, so that no other students will have to experience what they went through.