Letter to my sister: Parkland


Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

By Ivy Xun

On March 24, hundreds of thousands of individuals at the March for Our Lives sang Happy Birthday to Nicholas Dworet, one of the Parkland students who was killed in the shooting.

It would have been his 18th birthday.

You turned double digits in January. I still remember your birthday cake. It was red velvet with your favorite vanilla icing topped with glittery blue candles. It took you three tries to blow all ten out.

Two days before, on New Years Eve, we blew on imaginary candlestaking the shape of party streamersand donned ridiculous party hats praying, wishing, hoping that 2018 would be better than the last. You squeezed my hand as we watched the ball drop; me, remembering 2017 as the deadliest year of history for mass shootings in modern U.S. history, and you, hoping to beat Lindsey in freeze tag the next day.

It seems like every year we wish for something better. I thought 2016 was the worst year ever. Until 2017 came. Then, on February 14, 2018, I remember shaking in shock, anger, despair—because Nikolas Cruz decided to take the lives of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That school could’ve been any school. Those lives could’ve been anyone’s lives.

On February 14, 2018, when I asked you about Parkland, I remember your eyes scrunching as you recalled the solemn exchanges between adults at school and the whispers of the number 17 that echoed through hallways.

When you did a lockdown drill at Bradley Hills Elementary School a few weeks after the shooting, you thought it was to fight off robbers, excitedly showing me your ninja moves in the living room the next day. And when I told you it that it wasn’t about robbers hunting for gold, but rather 18-year-olds owning assault rifles, you were silent, and I was heartbroken.

I was also terrified, for both of us. For the first time in my life, I saw security guards blocking school doorsdoors I’ve walked through for the past three years. For the first time in my life, I found myself in class wondering which hallway to run to or which window to jump out of in case of a shooting. For the first time in my life, I picked you up from the bus stop wondering if someday you won’t be there.

I’m angry and scared that this is the world that your generation, our generation, is growing up in. Schools are scrambling to play defense at a game we never chose to play.

Some have already forgotten about Parkland, with the topic of gun control lost in studying for the next chemistry test and debating who should’ve won the Oscars. How many more of these tragedies are we willing to accept? How many more?

No more. Enough is enough.

Yes, my demand for gun control is emotional. But that’s because mass shootings have become personal to every single American citizen. I can give you statistics167 individuals responsible for mass shootings were able to obtain their weapons legally. In 2018 alone, mass shootings have left 21 dead and 2,837 injured, according to the Washington Post.

Such facts, though, become insufficient  in conveying the deaths of individual lives. When I look down at your bangsthey’re too long and hit your eyes but you still refuse to get them cutI see a generation of kids that needs protection. When I walked out on March 14, marching on the streets of our capital, I saw a generation of kids willing to fight, and that gives me hope.

We can’t sit here and blow out candles forever, staking our need for change on our childlike belief in wishes. It’s time to act.