#GunControlNow: An Open Letter to my Fellow Youth Voters

It’s now 2018 and I’ve never written about Friday, December 14th, 2012 until now— despite a piece of that day being etched into my brain. Recently, I’ve realized this flashbulb memory is there to remind me there is still hope and reason for change in the future, even if that change is almost six years later. 

I was in eighth grade when the Sandy Hook shooting happened, just miles away. It was my friend Ana’s birthday and an eventful day for my friends and me at school. I was on the way to last period when my best friend Julia grabbed my arm in the hallway. Her face was flushed as she pulled me into her before I could turn into my math class. 

There was a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. I was just in the computer lab with my class and a notification popped up on our screens. I was only able to mutter an oh my god before teachers began to usher us into our classrooms. For the first few minutes of class, I began to wonder why my teacher didn’t address what had just happened. I wondered why the principal didn’t make an announcement. I wondered why we weren’t placed into lockdown. I raised my hand and my teacher called on me. Did you hear about the school shooting in Newtown?

I can still vividly remember the look on her face because I remember feeling the guilt and embarrassment of asking the question. Her expression quickly became grim and angry as if I should have never said or known anything about the situation. She dismissed my question as fast as she could and tried to resume her lesson. A kid behind me tapped my shoulder and asked what happened. I remember trying to tell him I didn’t know much other than what Julia told me, but that there was a school shooting. Again, my teacher quickly tried to defuse my words and get everyone’s attention back the board.

I was upset and I couldn’t place the feeling. I didn’t understand why the matter wasn’t being discussed and why I was being dismissed so fast. Now, years later, I am able to place these feelings after living through Virginia Tech, Santa Fe, San Bernardino, Aurora, Pulse, Las Vegas, and Parkland. These feelings are anger, sadness, and hope.

Photo Credit: Signe Wilkinson ​

Now, I’m in college and just turned nineteen years old. I don’t think these feelings have faded, but rather the opposite. The world watched and came together after Sandy Hook happened. I watched as my seemingly small Connecticut community came together to mend the wounds that we all felt from Sandy Hook. Fundraiser after fundraiser, I watched as my state came together both socially and politically to advocate for change; to make sure this never, ever happened again. But it did happen again. And again, and again, and again, and again. And it is still happening, today. I am still sad and I am still angry, perhaps more now than I was then. I am angry that I was left in the dark the day Sandy Hook happened. I am angry my teacher couldn’t address what happened. I am angry that little has changed since that day. But, I am also hopeful. I am hopeful because my friends and I now have a voice. I have a voice. I can now speak up for change and cast votes for those who will make sure this doesn’t keep happening. 

To my fellow youth voters seeking change, you are here and you are the future. We can make the change. The most empowering and rewarding deed I have done since attending college is joining clubs and organizations in touch with my political beliefs. Find local candidates that you believe in. Volunteer for their campaign. Attend their debates. Become involved and vote for the future. I urge you to show up at the polls this November and vote for those who demand gun control so we never have to live in fear at school, at work, at movie theaters, at nightclubs, and at concerts ever again.

Photo Credit: Natalie Held

I never want anyone to have to feel the fear I felt on December 14th but I hope that this November, everybody feels that same anger I’ve never been able to let go of. 

 

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