At the March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, 2018, Emma Gonzalez, a student activist in the #NeverAgain movement, presented for six minutes and about twenty seconds. She used this time to first give a speech, telling the crowds that in six minutes, seventeen lives were taken, fifteen people were injured, and everyone in the community was changed forever.
Her voice filled with tears, she described the feelings of not knowing the extent of the shooting when it happened, and not being able to process that it happened. She united victims and survivors of gun violence in their shared understanding of its devastating outcome. She never imagined how far the effects of this tragedy would go.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lorie Shaull
As for those who refuse to comprehend it, Gonzalez stressed that it took only six minutes with an AR-15 for it to go six feet deep into the ground. She pushed through being overcome by her emotions to name all seventeen of the innocent victims killed in gun violence at her high school on February 14, 2018. In remembrance of those who “would never” get to live out the rest of their young lives.
Then Gonzalez stopped speaking. She held a silence for over four minutes, staring into the crowd, breathing, crying. Some chants in support of her rang out in the crowd, and Gonzalez stayed silent, both a memorial for those lost and a display of stoicism, to mean something. A timer rang, and she announced that since she began speaking, six minutes and twenty seconds had passed. In a tweet, posted from her account @Emma4Change, she clarified that her silence was not the full six minutes, and asked listeners to imagine how it would feel if it was and if they had to hide during a six-minute silence, as she and her classmates had.
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She closed her speech with an impactful statement: “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.” The powerful movement she is now a part of has taken it upon themselves to fight for their lives.
She politicized silence. In those minutes devoid of words, emotion filled the air. The silence made listeners feel the pain, fear and changed lives of those affected by gun violence. By being a political activist and using the power of silence, she is calling for change to prevent the tragedy of gun violence from happening again. Her strength to push for reform and justice for the victims of not only the Parkland school shooting but for all victims of gun violence is remarkable and inspiring. As a young leader, Emma Gonzalez has shown that growth can come from devastation.
Watch the full speech below courtesy of CNN.
Thumbnail courtesy of ABC News