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In the midst of the revolution: a Florida student speaks out

Students+protest+gun+violence+at+a+courthouse+in+Florida.+After+the+recent+shooting+at+Marjory+Stoneman+Douglas+High+School+in+Parkland%2C+Florida%2C+students+around+the+country+have+stood+up+to+demand+gun+reform+laws.+Photo+by+Frankie+Gaynor.
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In the midst of the revolution: a Florida student speaks out

Students protest gun violence at a courthouse in Florida. After the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country have stood up to demand gun reform laws. Photo by Frankie Gaynor.

Students protest gun violence at a courthouse in Florida. After the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country have stood up to demand gun reform laws. Photo by Frankie Gaynor.

Students protest gun violence at a courthouse in Florida. After the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country have stood up to demand gun reform laws. Photo by Frankie Gaynor.

Students protest gun violence at a courthouse in Florida. After the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country have stood up to demand gun reform laws. Photo by Frankie Gaynor.

By Frankie Gaynor

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The events of Feb. 14 haunt the worst of nightmares. People across the nation hear about the horrific shootings that occur in schools, such as the Columbine Massacre in 1999 or the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. You never think it can happen to you—until it does.

I attend Coral Glades High School in Broward County, Florida—the seventh largest school district in the country. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is precisely an eight minute drive from my campus. The school has been one of our biggest rivals in everything ranging from sports to academic competitions. We saw the worst in humanity when Nikolas Cruz took 17 lives, but we saw the best in humanity when my entire community united to support our neighboring school.

Florida students attend a walkout after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Many students nationwide will walk out of class March 14 to honor lives lost to gun violence and advocate gun control. Photo by Frankie Gaynor.

The most surreal part of being in the midst of the gun reform revolution is seeing my friends and other members of my hometown speaking to my idols—such as Jake Tapper—on CNN and other networks. People who I have known for years are verified on Twitter, becoming noticed by celebrities and publicly debating government officials about gun control on national television. The future is now, and it’s being led by teenagers of a local school.

While there is some good that resulted from such a horrible tragedy, it is so important that people understand the grief that plagues my home. The air feels different. There is a cloud over my entire county. The pain of hugging loved ones at vigils and knowing they survived a massacre where others were not so lucky is indescribable. Our hearts ache for those 17 people robbed of their lives. Like many others, I find sleeping and eating incredibly difficult. On the news, we seem strong and empowered, but on the inside, we are broken and angry. However, the best way to cope with these emotions is to fight back.

I am proud to say I am friends with the founders of #NeverAgain and March For Our Lives. Additionally, I am proud to participate in the local movements. The walkout on Feb. 21, exactly one week after the shooting, was one of the most powerful demonstrations. It was inspired by West Boca High School students, who walked over 10 miles to Parkland the day before. Previously, I attended the Miami Women’s March and a gun reform rally at The United States Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. However, nothing compares to protesting with members of your school. Out of the approximately 2,400 students at my school, about 1,500 walked 4.9 miles to Stoneman Douglas. It took one hour and 40 minutes, but it felt like no more than 20 minutes as we paraded down the streets of Coral Springs, Florida, with our powerful chants and impactful posters.

A student walks out of school and marches 4.9 miles to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students at Coral Glades High School marched to their rival school after the tragedy one week prior. Photo by Frankie Gaynor.

Luckily, the Coral Springs Police Department accompanied us along our route. Many were afraid of the dangers of walking such a far distance with no protection. Once I helped spread the word via Twitter that we would be secure, more were encouraged to march right along with us. Upon arriving to Stoneman Douglas, we met with several other schools in the area and stood on the campus to advocate for change and protection. We are in a position of power. The national spotlight is on my hometown, and we want to continue the momentum as we vote out the politicians who are against gun reform in the upcoming election.

We are a grieving community, but the Washington Post said it best: we are “furious activists.” We will continue to capitalize on the success of our demonstration and hold the people in office accountable for their donations and corruption. I strongly encourage all to attend the March For Our Lives March 24 in Washington, D.C. Never again will students become target practice for a murderer. Never again will we allow thoughts and prayers to be our only protection from bullets. This generation of brilliant and brave individuals will prove to be the change that we all need to see in this world.

Frankie Gaynor is the Editor-in-Chief of The Prowl at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs, Florida. 

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