As A Douglas Alum, March For Our Lives In D.C. Felt Like An Outlet For Our Voices

As A Douglas Alum, March For Our Lives In D.C. Felt Like An Outlet For Our Voices

We started a movement that day. We started change.
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Ever since February 14, I've struggled with trying to find a way to make a difference, to do something about the tragedy that struck my home of Parkland. After watching the strength, the unparalleled wisdom of the students of Douglas and all around the country in the aftermath of the shooting, I knew that I had to follow them. Upon hearing about March For Our Lives, I instantly felt the inexplicable need to use my voice and go to Washington D.C. and I was fortunate enough to do so.

I and over 100 UCF students raised money to go to Washington alongside the youth of our country to make history and fight for those who no longer can. We packed charter buses and took the 17 hours drive across five states. When we pulled into the city at about 6 a.m., I was bustling with excitement, forgetting about the exhaustion of the draining bus ride. All I could think about was how we all, and hundreds of thousands of others, were about to be a part of history.

Once we all got settled and changed, we started off toward the march. On the way, we passed the White House. Upon seeing the famous quarters, it made this whole experience seem more real. But even still, it was hard to wrap my head around that we were actually in D.C. about to march for change.

From there we traveled on to the JW Marriott, where MSD Alumni were hosting a breakfast and rally point for those attending the march. From the second we stepped foot in the lobby, you could instantly feel the love and support of family, the Eagles family. I ran into old friends, teachers, people I hadn't spoken to in years, but instantly picked right back up with. The love that radiated out of that room was undeniable, but underneath it laid pain and sadness. There lingered the reminder of why we were there. The horrible truth that almost two months ago 17 of our own, our fellow Eagles, were taken from us.

After making our rounds, we donned our maroon and orange ribbons and began our journey down Pennsylvania Avenue, right toward the Capital Building. As we went along, we saw people of all ages, races, genders, ethnicities holding up their signs in support, demanding for our voices to be heard and for change to come. At about 10 a.m. we finally settled into our spots in front of the stage and waited. I looked around, taking in every moment, every person, every sign. Taking in the history that was around me, that I was now a part of.

As noon came around, I suddenly heard music and saw Andra Day walk onto the stage. The second the first word left her lips, the tears started streaming. The realization that people we here for my home, for my teachers, my fellow Eagles, and not even just them, but also for the thousands upon thousands who have lost their lives from gun violence.

Performer after performer, speaker after speaker, I couldn't be more proud of my generation. For the strength and resilience of those kids who so bravely stood up and told their stories. For the historic teenagers who orchestrated this worldwide event. With every passing moment, my hope for change and determination rose higher and higher.

Then, a young girl with a shaved head walked on the stage and the crowd went wild. Emma González had arrived. I instantly felt starstruck, amazed that someone so young could elicit a reaction like that. That she could be one of the faces of this movement. That she could garner the bravery that she and so many others have done at such a young age.

And her speech was something I will never forget. As her tears began to flow, so did mine. As she emphasized how those 17 people would never be here again, my heart broke even more. As she stood there in silence for 6 minutes and 20 seconds, my heart stopped.

Complete silence. No one said a word. Not a car horn, or a plane overhead, or a bird chirping. The world stopped in those moments. We all were faced with the reality that in mere minutes, someone's world can change, can stop completely. Emma made history on March 24 with that speech and more than honored the 17 Douglas victims.

As Jennifer Hudson came out and belted out the finale of the march. The emotions that had been building up, the pain that had been held inside since February 14, began rushing toward the surface, desperate to be let out. The realization and shock that this actually happened. That this was real. That I was marching in Washington D.C. because 17 people were murdered in my home was too much to comprehend, to process. But it was real. And I was in D.C. And all of us from around the world were united as one, determined to make history. To ensure that these senseless deaths from gun violence would stop.

March 24, 2018, is a day I will never forget. Being able to attend March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. was an experience unlike any other. It was something that I will cherish forever. Something that I will tell my children and my grandchildren about one day. I'll tell them that we started a movement that day. That we were the change.

And I know this change may not be quick. That it won't be easy. But it's coming. And I'm going to be fighting for it until that brighter day when no one has to fear for their life at the hand of a gun finally rise. For that day when future generations can feel safe. For that day when no one has to feel the pain of losing a loved one from a gun. Never again.

Cover Image Credit: Alex Radelich

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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