“Six minutes and about 20 seconds,” Emma Gonzalez said. “In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us. 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone in the Douglas community, was forever altered.”
This 18-year-old survivor of February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, took the stage at Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. for six minutes and 20 seconds — the same amount of time it took for the shooter to murder 17 members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
With over 800 protests organized worldwide, Gonzalez was just one of many to speak out against gun violence and criticize those in power for not doing enough to end school shootings. Approximately 800,000 people rallied in the nation’s capital, making the event the “largest single-day protest in the history of the nation’s capital,” USA Today reported. The New York Times deemed it one of the “most impressive displays of collective political will since the last presidential election — and the only one in which many or most of the participants have never been able to vote.”
Delaney Tarr, another Parkland shooting survivor, told the crowd in Washington that the students were not going to accept anything but “real change.” She said they were frustrated at the political inaction regarding gun control and tired of being neglected.
“We are here to lead,” she said. “We are here to call out every single politician, to force them into enacting this legislation, to addressing this legislation, to doing more than a simple Band-Aid on a broken bone.”
Among the many passionate speakers who’ve lost loved ones to gun-related deaths was Edna Chavez, whose words moved the crowd to tears. The Los Angeles teen spoke about her brother, Ricardo, who was killed by a bullet while he was at school. Chavez’s heart-wrenching speech addressed the psychological repercussions survivors face in the aftermath of tragedy.
“If the bullet did not kill me, that anxiety and that trauma will,” she said. “I carry that trauma everywhere I go. I carry it with me in schools, in class, walking home and visiting loved ones. And I am not alone in this experience.”
Eleven-year-old Naomi Wadler spoke for all the female African-American victims of gun violence, saying they are often viewed as “simply statistics, instead of vibrant, beautiful girls, full of potential.”
“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,” she said.
When Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg stood before the crowd, he ardently urged people to “put the USA over the NRA.” He said everyone in support of this movement must band together and “make this the voting issue” at the midterm elections in November.
“Today, we march, we fight, we roar,” Tarr said. “We prepare our signs. We raise them high. We know what we want. We know how to get it. And we are not waiting any longer.”