When we had planned our trip to Washington D.C., the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had not yet happened. After the tragic school shooting, the students of MSD organized March For Our Lives, a march in support of more restrictive gun control, that would happen on March 24th, 2018. This would be our first official non-travel day in Washington D.C. History in the making, and no way were we going to miss it. (I will admit that my first thought was “sitting ducks waiting for something bad to happen” but I eventually got passed that for the greater good and whatnot.)

On March 14th, a month after the shooting, schools from all over the nation staged walkouts to say “enough.” Our student council planned a “walkout” (they did not leave campus) and came together in the quad for a peace rally. They held a moment of silence for the 17 lives lost, read short biographies of each person, and released white balloons. The rally ended with a massive group hug. It was incredibly touching to see.

As time grew near to March 24th, more than 800 marches would be organized all around the United States.

We (my parents, 9 year old daughter, and I) travelled to D.C. on the 23rd. In front of us, in back of us on the plane, folks from all over were heading in the same direction, just to attend March For Our Lives. This was important.

The morning of, we walked to a breakfast joint in D.C. called Poets and Busboys. Described, by themselves, as: “a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted…a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body and soul…a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide…we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.”

Basically the perfect place the start the day. They had piles and piles of free posters for the march, people had MFOL shirts and sweaters on, and the energy was palpable. Holy cow, this is going to be insane!

We finished up our breakfast and walked down the street. There was no need for directions because everyone on the streets was headed to the same place. 

We got closer to Pennsylvania Ave. and the number of people was extraordinary. Huge screens were set up all along the street, so people could view the happenings on stage. It was very well planned out, with an absolutely insane amount of law enforcement, EMT, and security present.

Now, I have never been to Coachella because I am not the biggest fan of crowds, so I was a little nervous about this particular event. Once we found our spot, all was good. It was a lot of people, no doubt about that, but it was very mellow.

Students and musical guests took the stage for a 3 hour rally. I was pretty stable until MSD student, Samantha Fuentes, asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to Nicholas Dworet. He would have been 18 years old the day of the march. Something about 800,000 people singing that song, in that context, was just heartbreaking. As sad as that was, smiles spread across faces as soon as Martin Luther King’s 9 year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, took hold of the mic. Her dream, that this world be gun-free was so innocent and sweet, you couldn’t help but fawn over her.

Nothing hit as hard as Emma Gonzalez’s speech though. It was what everyone was waiting for, and they saved her until the very end. She came out, the crowd went crazy, she started to speak, and then she went silent. Her entire time on stage was 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The time it took the MSD shooter to take the lives of 17 people. She went quiet for 4 minutes and 25 seconds. The crowd, for the most part, was silent. A few chants rang out, but it was very obvious what was happening.

Overall, it was a very emotionally draining experience, but worth every second.

These students put everything they had into their speeches, it was emotional, raw, inspiring, and something I will never forget. I am glad we were able to be a part of it.

My father and mother (who are also school employees) and 9 year old daughter, Kendall.

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