I first heard about the Parkland shooting from Twitter. From one of the students inside the building. I was leisurely scrolling through my timeline when my heart stopped. “I am in a school shooting right now,” read the tweet from Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Aidan Minoff. For the first time in my life, I was getting the news, in real time, directly from the voices of those living through it. This was just one of the first signs that, in the wake of this terrible tragedy, which up until this point had followed a similar script of past shootings, the aftermath would be different.
The gun control debate hits close to home for me. You know those glasses they make you wear during eye exams when you’re a kid? Those ones with multi-colored lenses on the sides? I like to think of everyone going through life as wearing a pair of those glasses. We all have multiple lenses; we view the world through different parts of ourselves.
For me, one of those lenses was changed forever when five young men with guns kicked in the door to my house in the middle of the night. My parents awoke, and my dad calmly gave them what they demanded and then, just like that, they were gone. We moved out of that house the next day. And I remember the moment when I thought, “I will never be the same.” It was a moment of private helplessness. I can’t imagine, then, the exponential helplessness that must have been felt initially by the survivors of Parkland.
That feeling of helplessness multiplied as over the years as I watched the number of gun deaths increase, alongside lawmakers’ responses growing increasingly more apathetic. But something changed with Parkland. Sure, it started with the same trope of politicians tweeting condolences, Facebook profile photo changes and a cry for more gun control. I expected that to be all there was to it: lots of hand-wringing for a day or two, then a deafening silence until the next one. But it wasn’t. Instead, I saw the survivors stand up. Shouting over the din of the Internet, young, angry people, barely younger than me, rose up, speaking the kind of truth you tell in grief.
“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” was the resounding cry. They organized, and are still organizing, and the movement is growing.
There is a boldface bravery in the actions of the Parkland survivors, in the way that they are holding politicians accountable and making themselves heard. It’s a notable fact that this movement has resounded with young people, especially high schoolers, who have all the reason to fear a mass shooter will inevitably show up in their hallways. More young people are joining in protests and marches and petitions every day. If they can stand up and stand together, maybe I can stand with them as well.
Between the emotions of anger and sadness, there is a line of apathy and action. Far too often I find myself on the side of a stoic sadness, one that tells the lie of, “You can’t do anything about it.” I am far more comfortable with my sadness than I am with anger. When I get angry, I don’t know what to do about it, I don’t know how to hold it in, and I worry what will happen if I give it a voice. I am scared of my anger. But today, there is too much of it to hold in.
I am a survivor of gun violence, and I am angry about it. I am furious that what could have been prevented by laws, which seem to be common sense to the rest of the world, has instead fractured my childhood. I used to be scared of my anger, but not anymore. Now I will use it to propel me, in the hopes that righteous indignation will change something. Because we defeat ourselves before getting up if we say that it’s impossible to change. It is possible, it just takes work. Lucky for us, our generation is full of hard workers.