Parkland Student Survivors Brace For 1st Anniversary Of School Shooting
There will be no marching.
There will be no school walkouts.
Only a day of reflection and service and, perhaps most consequential, a time to grieve.
That is how many of the Parkland, Fla., survivors turned activists plan to spend Thursday, the first anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Seventeen students and staff members were gunned down last Valentine's Day. Another 17 people were injured. The alleged shooter, a former student, is awaiting trial, and the state's attorney in Broward County, Fla., has signaled he is seeking the death penalty.
Since the shooting, young Parkland survivors have emerged as the driving force in calling for stricter gun laws in the U.S. through a series of marches, school walkouts and voter registration drives.
David Hogg, now a Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate, has become one of the most prominent figures in the March For Our Lives gun violence prevention movement. He was blunt when asked whether he has had time to grieve since the shooting.
"The entire aspect of grieving and getting over something like this is bull****," Hogg told NPR Morning Edition host David Greene on Wednesday.
"You don't get over something like this. You never can. You can't get over something that never should have happened."
He pointed out that while Parkland gets a lot of attention, gun violence is a "preventable epidemic" in the United States.
"This issue is beyond Parkland. This issue is about America and the war that we have on our streets, because it's time for us not to fight each other but to truly fight gun violence."
Across Parkland on Thursday, a number of events are scheduled to commemorate the anniversary. Marjory Stoneman Douglas will have a nonacademic school day that will end at 11:40 a.m. Meanwhile, the Broward County School Board is sponsoring a "Day of Service and Love" that will include Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and staff serving breakfast to first responders.
As for March For Our Lives, the movement is planning to take time away from social media on the anniversary and the days immediately following it.
"We don't know how we're going to feel," said Jaclyn Corin, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a co-founder of March For Our Lives.
Corin added that she and other Parkland survivors have been given advice from survivors of other mass shootings, including communities in Newtown, Conn.; Columbine, Colo.; and Las Vegas, on ways to prepare for the anniversary.
"I think it's the proper thing to go dark — actually spend that day to ourselves in our own thoughts," Corin said.
Though Corin admitted that at times she feels emotionally drained from all the ups and downs of the past year, she described it overall as "monumental."
"The last year has been incredible for the modern gun violence prevention movement, and we've made so much of a dent on public opinion, and I think that's something to be proud of," Corin said.
She points to a statistic from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence: It tallied 67 gun safety laws that were enacted last year across 26 states and Washington, D.C., following the Parkland shooting.
Corin said it is nice to take a break from the activism to focus on "normal" aspects of high school. Part of her responsibility as senior class president is helping to plan the prom. She recently bought a dress and in a few weeks will tour the venue.
But the reminders of what happened at her school that day last year are inescapable. Corin tutored the alleged gunman, something she does not talk about publicly anymore. Then there will be talk among classmates about what life was like before the shooting and what it has been like after it.
"A lot of people talk about the shooting like it's a time stamp," Corin said.
Fellow senior Sarah Chadwick agreed. She described having to pass the campus building where the rampage took place.
"The fact that the 1200 building is still there, it's actually incredibly difficult having to walk by it every single day," Chadwick said. "It takes a toll on your emotional state, and it's not even a place that we can avoid."
She said that it's a feeling that only those who were present on that day can understand.
"There's definitely comfort being surrounded by people who kind of know what you are feeling and have been through the same thing as you."
Once their social media hiatus ends this weekend, March For Our Lives activists say they have no plans to stop organizing or recruiting in the months to come.
Congress is considering legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales and the majority of gun transfers. It is likely to pass in the Democratic-controlled House but faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which is led by Republicans.
Alex Wind, another co-founder of March For Our Lives, said his primary focus is on making further gains in the gun violence prevention movement.
"I think what's really important is that we keep this momentum going throughout this year and next year and throughout every year to come." [Copyright 2019 NPR]