On March 24, 2018, people across the country marched for tighter gun regulation at "March For Our Lives" events. In Washington, D.C. an estimated 800,000 people gathered. This was all organized by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after they experienced a school shooting in February that left 17 people dead.
The air filled with chanting of "vote them out," "we've had enough," and "not one more" as the crowd took over Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. The group included people of different backgrounds and ages, and with different reasons to march.
Mari Springer, a teacher in Virginia, says she marched for the safety of her students. "I'm really hoping that we are not thinking about a strategy to exit in case of someone with a gun walking into our schools."
Jason Sebell of Franklin, Massachusetts says since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, he decided to leave the National Rifle Association and no longer own guns. "I have two children and one of them was the age of the children who died and I was imagining them and that sort of loss and what those families went through. It's an unimaginable tragedy, but also a relatable tragedy, as a parent."
For Sheila and Bob of Philadelphia, who travel to D.C. whenever there is a march, they say they marched this time because their families has been affected by school shootings. “My nephew was at Virginia Tech and one of his teachers was killed and my daughter was in a high school where a student came in with an AR-15 and shot up a hall way and killed himself in the school. Although we haven’t lost anyone, it’s still very personal to us, because it does have a profound ripple effect on other families, as well. Its’s hard at my age to be optimistic about seeing change on gun-control after everything that’s happened."
Though marches are frequently held D.C., Daniel Hieder, says he’s never participated in a march until now. “I’ve lived in Washington my whole life and I’ve never really felt compelled to really march for something and this is something that I think anybody no matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, somebody who likes to shoot guns recreationally or not, this is something that everybody needs to be in favor of. I like to shoot clay pigeons for fun and do trap shooting, but I’m not in favor of automatic weapons being able to be sold to anybody and let alone a teenager.”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students also traveled to D.C. to share their stories of what happened that day.
17-year-old Bryan Herrera explains: “We walked out for the fire drill and the kids in the front of my class saw him and immediately ran inside and everyone got in the closet. And then we heard the gun shots and then we waited in silence for around 4 or 5 hours until the SWAT team rescue us.”
He adds, "Teachers don’t know what to do. They admit it, they tell us there’s no plan for things like this. They’re trying their best too, because they’re obviously devastated, it’s never going to be the same.”
With him was his friend Ray Corniel, who is also 17, shares his experience: “So I actually heard gun shots but it didn’t sound like, it wasn’t that loud, it felt like fireworks to me. I just didn’t wrap my head around that our school was getting shot up. It was very surreal," he says. “And my wrestling coach, Coach Hixon was one of the persons killed in the shooting. I was very close to him. I spent most of my time out of school with him, every day after school and all weekend.”
Corniel adds, "Our school just seems like a prison now, we have to go to school with clear backpacks, we have helicopters monitoring us, you hear walkie talkies everywhere, you have to get checked by tons of guards just to even go anywhere in the school. It doesn’t feel like a school anymore at all.”
The students say they are doing anything they can to prevent this from happening again. “Earlier we were talking to senators and congressmen, we went to a student summit at Capitol Hill. And we talked to them and basically all of this is just trying to make our voices heard and doing everything we can to make a change,” Herrera explains.
Corniel adds, “I hope to wake up our politicians, so they see that we are here and we are ready to make a change and if they don’t accept that, we’ll vote them out. We have so much energy, we’re young we’re not old and we’ll keep fighting until we get what we want."