March for Our Lives: Parkland students visit Sandy HookMore Info
Newtown, Conn. —On Sunday afternoon (August 12) Sandy Hook Promise hosted a rally for the youth from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a fitting location to conclude the Florida student activists’ summer tour speaking out against gun violence and registering people to vote.
I’m not the big crowd type. But I felt compelled to go to meet two sets of my heroes: the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who also endured being victimized by gun violence. I took a deep breath, and joined the crowd. There were speeches, music, kids’ activities, food trucks, and booths set up for voter registration. The Parkland leaders (Emma, Cameron, David) didn’t speak, but rather gave the space for others to rise, younger kids (including Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter at 11 years old), Sandy Hook kids who had lost siblings, kids of color. Recognizing their privileged lives, they shared. And these other kids were amazing, each and every one.
It was a festive event on a day when rain held off and a breeze cut through the humidity from time to time. Likely, it was what rallies typically are: spirited, compelling, and inspiring. For me, it was also profound, and I’ll tell you why.
It’s taken me a lifetime to begin to learn to hold complexity, to be able stand with opposite realities at the same time. These kids have learned this lesson before finishing high school.
They spoke of grotesque pain (and you know they know what this is), and then they spoke of glorious love and hope and commitment (and you could tell it’s totally authentic).
They spoke of unbearable statistics (600,000 Americans killed by guns since the Sandy Hook shooting), and then they chanted: “Peace, love, unity.”
They acknowledged their privileged lives and immediately embraced their brothers and sisters from inner cities, and talked about how we ALL belong here.
They spoke of facing “too many empty beds” and then sang about “staying humble and kind.”
They talked about learning things that will never appear on an SAT exam, like learning in which classroom corners are safest to hide.
I found it heartbreaking that these kids’ youths have been taken from them, that they must travel with counselors and bodyguards.
And I also found it heartening that in spite of it all, perhaps because of it all, they are holding hope tight, a hope willing to work hard with no option of not completing the task at hand.
Those of us who are watching the news know that these are very intense times, at times very demoralizing. I challenge all of us to learn from these kids, and recognize that we can see all that is wrong and feel the anger and grief and fear. And at the same time, recognize our connectedness, the love at our core, and the endless possibilities before us if we roll up our sleeves and get to work.
And as the kids chanted, “We will not stop. We will win!” Just so, we must not stop until we win.