On Saturday, March 24th, after weeks and weeks of preparation, a bus full of fifty-five members of the Mount Greylock communittee traveled to Washington, D.C. to protest gun violence and congress’s failure to take action. The Washington march was the center of the March For Our Lives, which included hundreds of “sibling marches” across the country. The March for Our Lives was the second massive event regarding gun violence this month, following the national school walkout a few weeks ago. Mount Greylock students that had attended the walkout were certainly impressed by the hundreds of their peers that stood out in the cold, mourning victims of the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida. But on Saturday, some of them had the opportunity to march with hundreds of thousands of students and adults with the same core goals as them. If these students had not already realized how real this movement was, on Saturday they did.
The 200,000 person crowd that flocked the streets of Washington D.C. had the opportunity to listen to many students who had both messages for America’s youth and orders for America’s politicians. Marchers cried and cheered as these inspiring children, covering anywhere from elementary to high school, shared their own personal stories, those of their friends who had been ruthlessly slaughtered, and as they called to their peers that it was time; that a movement had begun. Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky explained that “the march is not the climax of this movement. It’s the beginning.”
Kasky was not the only Parkland student to speak to the crowd. In a tearful moment, Samantha Fuentes took the stage and shared that the 24th was Nicholas Dworet’s birthday. Dworet was a fellow student who was “senselessly murdered” by the shooter last month. The crowd joined in as Fuentes, trembling, sang “Happy Birthday” to her deceased friend. The singing was one of several heart-wrenching moments during the March For Our Lives. Perhaps one of the most moving speeches, however, was one of few actual words. Emma Gonzoles, one of the spearheaders of this youth movement who survived the Stoneman Douglas shooting, delivered the last thoughts of the day. But after listing the deceased, Gonzales was silent. For minutes, she stood there, staring into the distance, as the crowd embraced the energy of the movement.
Then she explained to the crowd that it had been six minutes and twenty seconds since the beginning of her speech. “Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest,” said Gonzalez, as members of the crowd wiped tears from their faces.
And then she proceeded to speak some of the most powerful words of the day: “fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”
As marchers walked down the street, many of them would be able to see signs that read “MGRHS students for gun control” on the back. Though there were 800,000 people in the crowd, the fifty-five members of our community who joined in were able to leave their mark. And this presence wasn’t spontaneous or casual, either. Weeks and weeks of planning went into the event on the side of the organizers. Maddy Art, Karen McComish, Maia Hirsch, and Sophie Jones, who had also been the driving force behind this month’s walkout, were able to receive funds to get a coach bus to bring Mount Greylock students and adults to Washington. Wild Oats, Spring Street Market, and Greylock Together, among others, gave lots of help, in the form of both money and food for the trip. A meeting was organized for marchers to create signs and learn more about the logistics, including subway information, maps, and meal details. Suffice to say, by 2:00 AM on Saturday, every corner of the plan for the event had been laid out by the students. It was time for them to do what they had come to do.
At around 11:00 AM, the students arrived, holding posters with messages including “I march for my classmates,” “hold hands, not arms,” and “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” most were either overwhelmed, amazed, or both at the expanse of people. Sophomore Molly Howard remarks that “it was really amazing to see how many people came out. It showed that there is such support for this cause, and for me that was an important part of the experience.” This sentiment was felt by many of the Mount Greylock students. For many of these students, the March For Our Lives was even more exciting because it was their first exposure to an experience like it. A survey run by the organizers of the event revealed that more than half of responding marchers had never been to a political march or rally. “This was my first time attending a march on this kind of scale,” says Howard. “For me, the sheer magnitude of the event was invigorating. The numbers alone were part of what made it so special.”
Many of the Mount Greylock Students that attended the march were already activists. But leaving Washington, D.C. on Saturday evening, many of those that were not already now were. The organizers’ survey showed that before the event, 75% of the students considered themselves to be politically aware. After the event, over 95% did. Additionally, almost 90% of responders claimed that they would continue advocating for gun reform even after the march was over. These statistics give hope to anyone who wants Mount Greylock students to continue fighting. And the future looks bright: only one of the four organizers of the Mount Greylock chapters of the walkout and the March For Our Lives is a senior. The rest will return next year, hoping to bring an activism club to the school. And behind them is, as the numbers suggest, a whole crew of students that are eager to make change. Indeed, the future looks bright.