Enough is Enough: #NeverAgain

It’s February 14th, 2018. Valentine’s Day. Following the trends of mass commercialism that the holiday has come to embody, gifts of chocolate hearts, candy, and flowers line the shelves of practically every store. But this year, for the staff and students of Stoneman Douglas High School, Valentine’s Day took on a whole new meaning. Instead of exchanging gifts as signs of love, they found themselves hiding in closets, listening to gunshots, and mourning the loss of Peter Wang, Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel, and 14 others who were killed in the mass shooting that took place at their high school at 2:10 pm that day. The exhibitions of love they shared with their friends and family that day were desperate and heartbreaking, exchanged in the form of text messages as they crouched under desks telling their parents and siblings “please call 911”, “stay safe, stay hidden”, and “I love you”. 

It was one of the world’s deadliest school massacres and one of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern US history. But despite the ever-growing mass shooting list including Columbine, Sandy Hook, Pulse Night Club, Route 91 Harvest Music Festival and now, Stoneman Douglas High School, nothing has changed. Numbed by the immense frequency of mass shootings that continue to occur, the nation is quick to move on as if nothing happened. It has been three weeks since the shooting and for most people, life has carried on as always. But for the students of Stoneman Douglas, everything has changed. Those were their teachers, friends, and classmates. They were supposed to go home at the end of the day, and for the students, to graduate at the end of their four years and go on to attend military academies or represent their country at the Olympics. Their surviving classmates are angry that they no longer have these opportunities and that this continues to happen across the nation, so they’re standing up and advocating for change. Change that should have come a long time ago. 

Led by students at Stoneman Douglas, the #NeverAgain and March For Our Lives movement has taken flight in the weeks after the tragedy occurred. They don’t want just our “thoughts and prayers” and “time to grieve”; the students are forcefully demanding that Congress addresses gun policy and they’re not going to stop until they see it happen. Their cries have already echoed across the nation, where countless other teens are joining the cause. They’re organizing marches in their own cities, holding meetings, running social media accounts, and arguing for change as loud as they possibly can. 

But despite the fact that they’re advocating for the safety and protection of millions of other children and teenagers who are at risk of facing similar horrific tragedies each day as they go off to school, they’re still facing an immense amount of backlash. People claim they look “too happy”, and that they’re “feeding off the fame” they’re getting from the deaths of their friends. They have been deemed the “crisis actors” and told they looked “coached” and “deranged”. The fact of the matter is that adults don’t want to listen to a bunch of teenagers who “have no idea what they’re talking about”. But these teenagers are the ones who have crouched under desks and in closets, listening to the sound of gunshots ricocheting in a place they always thought was safe and watching their teacher’s bodies crumple to the floor in front of them. Whether or not they’ve had a real job, paid a mortgage, or experienced any other aspect deemed as part of a “real adult experience” has nothing to do with what they’re asking for. 

Regardless of the childish insults thrown their way and attempts to shift the focus away from the real issue at hand, their movement is still making waves. On February 28th, Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the nation’s largest outdoor gear retailers, ended the sale of assault-style rifles in stores. They also will no longer sell firearms to anyone under 21 years of age. Walmart, the largest US retailer, followed suit and raised their minimum age to 21 as well. The journey has just begun and there’s still a long way to go but it seems that, for once, strides are being made in the right direction.

Amidst the outrage and controversy that follows the aftermath of the shooting and the movement for justice that these teenagers started, Stoneman Douglas High’s motto can be seen as a source of motivation for them to persist despite the obstacles that appear in their way. “Be positive. Be passionate. Be proud.” After all, if Aaron Feis can demonstrate the courage to stand in front of imminent death in order to protect others, the nation’s youth can find the courage to stand in front of Congress and do the same. 



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