Approximately 150 students participated in the national walk out for gun control

“Hello Francis Howell Central Students, many of you have chosen to participate in the national school walkout today.” Cold air slaps the face of students walking in unison, standing for what they believe in.

“We value the student voice here at Howell Central and we will respect this form of civil disobedience for a short time.” Poster papers strung out on tables lining the outside of the track. #NeverAgain surrounded by student’s signatures.

“The organizers of the national walkout are encouraging students to walk out for a total of 17 minutes, one minute for every victim in the recent Parkland, Florida shooting.” Nearly 200 students gather in silence, hoping their voices will be heard.

Signs are in the hands of several participants, reading statistics and trending hashtags in support of gun reform, and gun violence awareness. One reads #EnoughIsEnough Las Vegas 58, Orlando 49, Blacksburg 32, New Town 27, South Springs 26, Killeen 23, San Ysidro 21, Parkland 17, San Bern 14, Edmond 14 – each number representing the number of lives lost in mass shootings. Behind this sign is sophomore Lauren Delgado.

“Our whole lives as young adults and as students, we’ve been taught that you are the change you want to see in the world, and if you want something to happen, you have to voice your opinion,” Delgado said. “I feel like it’s really important to voice your opinion and let people know you want change and that you’re demanding it, you’re not asking for it. It’s coming and people need to be ready for it.”

Freshman Taylor Krieg believes gun violence, mass shootings, and the ever-changing way in which the world interacts with this violence and feels these standards are not up to par.

“[Mass shootings] just really reflect on how we are living our lives, and it shows that we need to be more careful and we need to have safety rules,” Krieg said. “The way that we are living now, it isn’t stepping up to how the world is changing around us.”

“[Gun violence is] preventable,” Delgado said. “There is nothing you can do to blame it on other people, you just have to learn from the situation and you have to make a change or else it’s going to keep happening.””

— Lauren Delgado

Krieg has seen the effects of gun violence up close and understands the trauma and aftermath lasts far longer than the day of the shooting, far outside of the hallways; the aftermath is everywhere.

“One of my best friends, two of her cousins went to [Parkland] where there was just the big shooting at and both of them witnessed people get shot,” Krieg said, tears slowly welling in her eyes. “It was really hard the next couple of days [after the shooting] because at first she knew it was the school, but she didn’t know how her cousins were doing. I kind of had to look at her and you could see the pain on her face not knowing if her cousins were even alive anymore.”

Likewise, senior Wyatt Dubuque feels the recent Parkland shooting, which was honored during today’s walkout, has hit closer to home than ones previous.

“I feel like the [mass shootings] before now they kind of, I don’t know, they were things you heard about on the news and then you sort of forgot about them after a little bit, but the Parkland one is sticking with people more, and it is sticking with me more as well,” Dubuque said. “[School shootings are] uncomfortable. I’m not trying to get shot when I’m just trying to go to school. I mean, I don’t think that I will, I don’t wake up every day afraid to come to school, but it is still a real problem.”

For junior Audrey Blevins, a previous Florida resident, having the Parkland shooting literally close to home has opened her eyes and made the tragedy so much more personal.

“I mean, these kids are the same age as us, it could have been us. So I just think it is really important to advocate for [awareness and prevention],” Blevins said. “I think it is very important for students to be coming out here and voicing their opinion, I think walking out just shows everybody how much power we have.”

Delgado hopes the walkout will remind people gun violence is an epidemic and something we need to address with honesty, with passion, with action.  

“I hope the outcome is that instead of [President] Trump and different people putting spins on the situation like, ‘Maybe if this child wasn’t troubled,’ ‘Maybe if he didn’t have mental issues, this wouldn’t’ve happened,’” Delgado said. “[Instead] I want the change to be that maybe if he didn’t have an assault rifle, 17 kids wouldn’t’ve died. There’s no positive spin, or any spin, that you could put [on it] to make it seem that it’s anything other than the fact that he had a gun and he killed 17 people.”

Delgado wants people to understand students have the power to change the lives of many, and end gun violence.

“[Gun violence is] preventable,” Delgado said. “There is nothing you can do to blame it on other people, you just have to learn from the situation and you have to make a change or else it’s going to keep happening.”