Thousands of schools held walkouts demanding change.
by Gabby Curran
It was a chilly, but cloudless day, on March 14th, when members of the Fordham community––following in the footsteps of over 30,000 other students across the nation––gathered on Edward’s Parade to commemorate the one-month anniversary of the shooting that took place on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. As the Keating bells struck 10, crowds of students and staff members filed out of classroom buildings and clustered by the fence facing the Lombardi Center to stand in solidarity with the victims of the shooting, as well as the students actively fighting for urgently-needed gun reform laws. The atmosphere was chatty and social, yet solemn––this was not, after all, a casual get-together put together by CAB. There was symbolism behind this gathering; there was a message to be conveyed, if a representational one. Ten minutes later, two student speakers took to the top of the Lombardi steps to thank everyone for coming out, and to read off the names of the 17 students and staff members whose lives were abruptly cut short on February 14th. 17 minutes of silence ensued, punctuated by 17 rings of the Fordham Victory Bell.
This sequence of events is unfortunately nothing new––with 17 killed and 17 more wounded, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre clocks in as one of the deadliest shootings in American history, only third behind the Virginia Tech massacre and the Sandy Hook shooting. The perpetrator, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz of Margate, Florida, was arrested and taken into custody while hiding amongst a crowd of students evacuating the school and The situation is made all the more tragic considering Cruz’s less-than-veiled penchant towards violence. Several of his former classmates commented on Cruz’s reckless personality, and he reportedly had behavior issues that began in middle school. Disturbingly, in September 2016, Cruz posted a Snapchat of him harming himself and threatening to buy a gun. The state investigators, clearly in a stroke of qualified wisdom and justice, concluded that he was “at low risk of harming himself or others.” A YouTube account under his literal name was also found leaving violent and threatening comments on videos such as “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” To make matters worse, the AR-15 Cruz used was obtained legally. Cruz’s own parents knew about it, and misguidedly thought that all it took to prevent their son from misusing it was to establish rules about keeping it in a lockbox. To say that this tragedy was preventable would be a vast understatement.
Thankfully, students are refusing to stay silent in the wake of the massacre. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s own students––most notably Emma Gonzalez, whose speech at a Fort Lauderdale rally shortly has gone viral since its publication online––are spearheading the movement for gun reform, and letting nobody get in their way. Fordham University’s community, too, has joined the ranks of young citizens who refuse to accept the government’s callous value of the archaic Second Amendment over the lives and futures of America’s youth.
When the 17 minutes of silence began at approximately 10:10, an earnest and solemn silence fell over the students in attendance. We would be lulled into a moment of deep contemplation for 59 seconds before the intermittent clang of the bell would remind us of another student lost to a preventable tragedy. There was barely a sound as we stood in the cold, hands in our pockets. Some of us held our heads high, others looked down at the ground, all silencing ourselves for the same cause. I couldn’t tell you what every single person was thinking during those 17 minutes. They never really tell you what exactly to think about during a so-called “moment of silence.” I personally thought about what had happened, of course, but also about my days in high school, how our own professors would hold yearly lockdown drills that nobody really took seriously. I don’t think it was because we were heartless, or ignorant; I think the severity and terror of the situation we were preparing for was just too scary to genuinely contemplate. We were lucky to never have had to huddle in the back of a classroom in true fear, hoping the door the professor had just locked would hold up against a shooter’s fists or their artillery.
When the 17 minutes were up, another student speaker stepped to the top of the gymnasium steps and thanked everyone for coming. However, he rightly stressed, this is only the first of many steps that should be taken towards preventing something like this from ever happening again. He then urged Fordham students to start letter-writing campaigns, contact their representatives, and continue to actively speak out against gun violence.
This walkout was the calm before the storm. This walkout should be the calm before the storm––a moment for us to grieve what happened, and to remember the lives of those unjustifiably taken too cruelly and too soon. This walkout should, as the student speaker reminded us, be but the first step we take, before we take actions that are direly required of us for this to never happen again.