At 10 a.m. Wednesday, hundreds of State High students — who all grew up in a post-Columbine world, hearing about too many school shootings to count — walked out of class and gathered in front of the high school to memorialize the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting on Valentine’s Day.
Students read the names of each Parkland victim, along with brief biographies, and Master Singers performed “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” They organized the memorial to go along with school walkouts that happened across the nation to honor the victims of the mass shooting and call for action against gun violence.
“It’s way easier to say 17 people were shot and murdered than to read the lives of 17 people. And it puts you in their shoes because as I was reading mine, this was somebody I could’ve been friends with and to think that that could’ve happened to one of my friends if I was a student in Parkland,” said State High junior Jackson Harper, one of the organizers. “It is beyond upsetting. It’s beyond words, and that was one of the most important messages that we tried to convey today.”
School shootings are a fact of these students’ lives, and they shouldn’t be, said senior and fellow organizer Kayla Fatemi.
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“We’re the ones who are becoming emotional about this ’cause we’re coming to age, we’re becoming voters and we’re becoming aware citizens and we want to participate in our government and make a difference because this is just — we shouldn’t have to live this way,” she said.
Because of the way student organizers went about planning the event as a memorial, the administration was behind them.
“I think it was amazing,” Principal Curtis Johnson said. “I’m really proud of the student body. I’m glad that we were all able to get together and come to a common goal to memorialize these students. It’s very powerful.”
It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first protest against violence, sophomore organizer Kyra Gines said, citing examples of police brutality and Black Lives Matter.
It’s time to join the people who have already been demonstrating, she said.
“We’re finally taking action,” Gines said. “So Parkland was the breaking point, but it won’t be the focal point. Everything will come into focus.”
The student organizers urged students and community members alike to call or write to their legislators and to vote — if they’re old enough.
Wednesday’s memorial also won’t be the only event this month. State High students, along with community activists, are organizing a local March For Our Lives on March 24.