March For Our Lives
I was 13 years old in April of 1999, when 13 people were killed at Columbine High School. Since then, "more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours," according to a year-long Washington Post analysis.
We didn't walk out or march back then, maybe because we were scared, maybe because we thought it wouldn't happen again or maybe because we thought that after the loss of 13 lives (plus the lives of the two perpetrators) that meaningful change was imminent.
I remember a lot about being a teen—sleepovers, disposable cameras, school dances, glitter makeup, football game snacks and questionable hair choices—but I don't remember feeling afraid. In the Midwest we had tornado and fire drills, but not active shooter drills. We had school IDs that were never checked and I only had to pass tests, not through metal detectors.
I was 27 when 20 children under the age of seven and six staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. There were no walkouts to support, or marches to join and after a while it became maddeningly apparent that this was just business as usual. If the deaths of 20 children didn't inspire change, it seemed as if nothing ever would.
I'm 32 now, old enough to be a parent but young enough to remember being a self-absorbed teen. I'm ashamed that we didn't organize and march after Columbine—how many senseless deaths could've been prevented if we had? I wasn't even a fraction as brave when I was younger (or even now) as the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but I feel inspired and buoyed by their refusal to become another grim statistic.
I finally marched on today—19 years too late. I teared up more at this march than I did at the original Women's March, or the immigration march, or the Trump protest or the second Women's March. To see children holding signs that said "Am I next?" is maddening and terrifying and deeply sad. I am embarrassed for our country and its elected officials that prioritize money over lives. I have never wished to relive my teenage years, but I do wish I could go back and do something meaningful—but I can only keep marching forward.