I’ve grown up with lockdown drills at school, and though I’m used to them, each one shakes me to the core. When I was a freshman, there was an unannounced lockdown at the middle school, where my brother was a student. It took an hour for police to declare that the alarm was triggered accidentally. During that hour, all I could think of was whether my little brother would become another statistic, another victim mourned until the news cameras moved on to the next tragedy. Everything was fine, the lockdown was an accident, but before the police declared it a false alarm, we weren’t so different from the countless towns that have experienced school shootings. In that time, we didn’t know if our family and friends were all right.
On February 14 of this year, my phone lit up with a notification from the New York Times reporting that a shooting had occurred in Parkland, FL. My classmates and I shared a reaction of resigned cynicism, which was quickly replaced with disgust at our own resignation, and finally, fierce indignation.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting, I could feel the response to this tragedy was different. We, the students of the United States of America, would not tolerate the government’s complicity in mass shootings anymore. Like most of my peers, I am not yet able to vote, so we had to find other ways to vocalize our discontent. Angered at Washington’s inaction, my friend texted me, “Let’s get these politicians to hear us.”
Illustration by Tim Foley
Along with other high school students, we formed a Facebook group called Student Unity to share our collective outrage and channel it into political advocacy. Croton-Harmon High School students organized a bus to the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC; in the early morning of March 24 we traveled to the Capitol, armed with posters, chants, and knowledge.
On the bus ride home we whispered to each other, asking if maybe this time was different. Our consensus is summed up by a quote from Croton senior, Dante Mancinelli, who, during our school’s walkout, declared: “We will not wait passively for change any longer…We will make our voices heard. We will make our voices as evident and as earsplitting as the gunshots that brought us together in the first place.”
A few weeks ago, I completed my voter registration form, my first step to officially participating in our democracy. At the March 14 walkout, I organized a letter-writing campaign in my school to share students’ calls for gun control with our federal and state politicians.
Students all over the Hudson Valley have engaged in politics by hosting a town hall meeting about gun violence, traveling to Albany to confront state politicians, organizing school walkouts, and planning marches in White Plains and Ossining that were attended by thousands. In Croton, a newly formed student activist group registered voters and gave speeches about gun violence during the April 20 walkout. They are already looking toward the next event, an assembly for the school on May 31 with prominent guest speakers.
My generation is cautious and extremely skeptical of the establishment’s willingness to change. But we have faith in a brighter future, and we’re prepared to fight for it, no matter how long it takes.
Delia Walz is a senior at Croton-Harmon High School. In the fall, she will be attending Oberlin College, where she hopes to study Environmental Studies and Politics.
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