I attended the March For Our Lives in Washington, DC, and I went home with more insight than I thought I would have. This information impacted me, so I hope it impacts someone else as well.
1. Love Thy Neighbor
March For Our Lives was seen as mainly a liberal event, but some conservatives came to support as well. Behind me in the crowd, a man stood with a Make America Great Again hat with the organization he was with. Another man started questioning him on his intentions on attending the march and even threw the hat into the crowd behind him. As they argued, a woman put up her jacket to shield the other attendants from seeing them or getting pulled into the fight. Some students around me took out their phones to record the squabble. After a few minutes, the yelling turned into speaking, and the speaking turned into agreeing.
The two men who seemed at opposite ends of the political spectrum ended up shaking hands and taking pictures together. They realized that each of them were truly attending to support the students fighting for safer schools, and that was definitely something they could agree on.
2. People Are Generally Good
Standing for six hours straight in the sun is not exactly the most leisurely of experiences. Plus, being rushed out of a hotel room before an event like this leads one to forget important things. For example, food. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before, so my body was not cooperating. I had to kneel down during speeches and hold onto protest signs for support because my entire body would not stop shaking.
As I was on the ground, a woman in front of me asked if I was okay and offered me a granola bar. I graciously thanked her and that single granola bar pretty much saved me. Plus, the other people around me gave me more room to kneel down than they had without a second thought. I wish I could thank that woman and everyone else around me for that even more than I did, but I hope they know how thankful I am.
3. Tip Your Uber Driver
I believe tipping anyone in the service industry is important, but a lot of people forget about uber and lyft drivers even being in the service industry. In an event especially, these drivers go through hell. Blocked off roads, horrible traffic, and tired customers is a recipe for disaster, but they still do it. So, show your gratitude by tipping and rating five stars. They appreciate it.
4. The President Is A Coward
This wasn’t really news to me, but it became more prevalent after the march. The president decided to leave Washington, D.C. during one of the biggest marches nationwide to go to Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Not only did he leave D.C., but he also did not make a visit to Parkland even though it is less than an hour drive from his resort. I suppose he was too busy golfing, sunbathing, relaxing, but as we all know, these are all more important things than to take an hour or two out of his day to visit a grieving community, but it’s whatevs.
I was afraid of big scary high schoolers too when I was in 7th grade.
5. Do Not Trust Ryan Deitsch
No, not because he’s a crisis actor. During Ryan’s speech, he mentioned arming teachers, a controversial issue stating that teachers should have guns to protect themselves and their classrooms from school shootings or other threats. This is a problematic claim, and Ryan took it right by the horns. When he said, “We need to arm teachers,” there was a hush over the hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd. We couldn’t believe what he was saying. He then broke this silence by saying, “We need to arm them with pencils, pens, paper, and the money they need to support their families,” And the crowd broke out in cheers.
He was right.
Teachers give so much to their students and what they need is supplies and financial compensation. I’ve never seen anyone fool so many people at one time, so even if he is a liar, he is a good one.
6. The Kids Know Their Privilege, And They Know It Well
It’s no secret that Parkland is an affluent and mainly white community. It’s not a coincidence that the media picked up the Never Again kids as quickly as they did. Yes, they are outspoken and educated, but it stems from white privilege, and as a Parkland native, I see this firsthand. The students also see this and take advantage of it in the best way. In Washington, DC, students from all over the country, from places that are overlooked and have gun problems every single day, finally got their chance to be a voice for their communities and shed light on what is happening to children that aren’t in rich neighborhoods with white picket fences.
The Parkland kids used the spotlight on themselves and shared it with students too often ignored, and that is incredibly admirable.
7. It Doesn't Stop Being Surreal
Hearing Demi Lovato or Miley Cyrus say that they’re “MSD strong” is truly insane. I never imagined a time when just someone living in Orlando or Tampa knowing my school’s name or city. I had to keep looking back at my friends and asking, “Is this real?” or “What the f*ck?” because neither I nor them could get over standing in DC and seeing kids we passed in the hallway being cheered on by people who didn’t have Mr. Olds as a substitute or Ty “Tee-Why” “The Tank” Thompson as their principal. The only word is describe the whole experience is “insane”.
8. Respect Your Elders, But Respect Young People, Too
Young people are too often seen as too immature to take on big projects. However, the Parkland kids proved everyone wrong. In just five short weeks, these teenagers produced a movement with one of the biggest participation rates in history. Even though they've accomplished so much, the media cannot help but bring them down.
Claiming the kids are crisis actors, twisting their words to say statements the kids never said, and even photoshopping images to make it seem like Emma Gonzalez is ripping up the Constitution. It's disgusting and the students deserve much more respect than they are receiving, and I hope that soon the media sees that they are for real.
9. Teachers Are The Ultimate Heroes
Teachers, especially the ones at Stoneman Douglas, truly do everything they can just to get their students to learn. Even when they give mountains of homework and don't let you wander the halls for more than five minutes at a time, they do it because they care. I see this especially in teachers like Mrs. Falkowski and Mr. Foster, two I had when I was attending Douglas. They would do anything for their students, whether it be extra tutoring or just staying after class time to chat.
To them and every other teacher, thank you. Your teachings can grow into bigger things than anyone could imagine.
10. We Only Hear About What The Media Tells Us
A big reason why we didn't hear from Edna Chavez and Zion Kelly before the march was because the media don't cover their neighborhoods. It's not because their tragedies aren't big enough or they didn't cry enough. It's because the media doesn't care about people of color. It's because guns are normalized there, and that's not okay. Death should never be normalized. Death of children and teenagers should never be normalized.
The Never Again movement must continue to give a voice to those who do not have one because of the negligence of the media, and I see it starting now, with their voices being heard in Washington. We as Americans must not let childrens' deaths become another tweet to scroll past.
To conclude, attending the March For Our Lives was a life-changing experience. This was not the climax, this was just the beginning.