Florida’s Teen Survivors Refuse to Stay Silent: ‘We Are the Change’
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students like Emma González are turning their grief into action.
It has been less than a week since Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Florida suffered the devastating loss of 17 of their community members in a horrific mass shooting. But in the days following, scores of students have raised their voices to ensure that their classmates did not die in vain—even going so far as to instruct President Trump to stay "far away."
"We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks," senior Emma González said in a powerful speech at a rally in Fort Lauderdale last Friday. "Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because… we are going to be the last mass shooting."
González's gripping words were just the beginning of the #NeverAgain movement, a grassroots lobby campaign organized by her classmate Cameron Kasky. The group's biggest initiative is a "March for Our Lives" protest, which will take place in Washington, D.C. in March.
After experiencing the horror of a school shooting together, many other Stoneman Douglas students are publicly demanding stricter gun-control laws in Florida and across the nation. Senior Brandon Abzug, for example, lobbied at the Florida capitol in Tallahassee for eight straight hours.
Here are some of the survivors-turned-activists and their moving messages to politicians and the country.
Emma Gonzalez, senior
"If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association," Gonzalez said in her moving speech at last Friday’s rally. "You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you."
Cameron Kasky, junior, #NeverAgain founder
"People keep asking… 'Why do you think that this is going to be different? So many of these things have happened and nothing has changed.' Our answer was: 'We're the future,'" Kasky told CBS News.
Delaney Tarr, senior
"We are no longer just high school students, that much is true. We are now the future, we are a movement, we are the change," Tarr wrote in a fearless personal essay for Teen Vogue.
Alfonso Calderon, junior
"The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results," Calderon told NPR in an interview. "In Florida this year, there's been the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting. There was also the Orlando Pulse nightclub. And now it's my high school. It's insane to think that anything is going to change unless you do something."
Brandon Abzug, senior
"Young people all across this country and all over the world, should feel that they have the power to make things right. Especially in the wake of a tragedy, we really show who we truly are. So to say, 'Just because we're young, we can't make a difference,' is not right," Abzug said in response to Rep. Jack Kingston's comments about how high-school students aren't capable of organizing a gun control rally.
Sarah Chadwick, sophomore
"'Be the change you wish to see in the world' — that quote is plastered high on a staircase in Douglas. I read it [every day] while walking to class, and now I'm here truly trying to be a change in the world," Chadwick, part of #NeverAgain’s core team, tweeted.
Jaclyn Corin, junior
"Our coping mechanism is dealing with it in a political aspect," Corin told Naples Daily News. "I know that a lot of us in the school have different coping mechanisms, and it's good that we do because we need a wide variety of comfort and mourning, but also political action."
Sofie Whitney, senior
"I'd never heard of [Nikolas Cruz] in my life. We have so many kids in our school, I only know like 100 or 200 people," Whitney said in an interview one day after the shooting. "A kid that's 19 shouldn't have a gun."
Here are more callouts from other Parkland student survivors: