March For Our Lives, D.C. Trip

Previously published by The Herald Times


With Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Student Cameron Kasky’s powerful words Saturday, “Welcome to the revolution,” so began a new era. Not only was our generation coming of age, but a new political force was being unleashed.

More than 50 students from Bloomington High Schools North and South walked in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, one of 839 marches worldwide.

Our message was clear: Young students are dying in mass shootings, and it’s time for a new generation to step up. Our generation is one of social media and smartphone users, but by attacking this issue head-on, we have broken those stereotypes, placing our bodies on the line in a visible protest space, just as so many (too many) students’ bodies have been under fire in school.

This is our issue. It’s real.

“They always try to say our generation is lacking,” said North senior Caleb Poer to our group once we exited the metro station. “But look at where we are now!”

The reality hit us. To our right, we could see the Capitol building, and to our left, the Washington Monument.

There was immediate excitement among the group as we chanted and held up our signs.

Poer, perched on a granite barrier wall, addressed us through an electric bullhorn, which he would use all day to start enormous crowd chants and deliver a brief speech reminding us why we were there.

Hours later, the official program began with a crowd-led countdown to its noon start with a video about the school shooting epidemic. The crowd booed each politician in the video offering nothing but “thoughts and prayers,” and loudly cheered our movement’s new heroes, especially Parkland student Emma Gonzalez.

Inspirational speakers and performers took the stage, bringing tears to our eyes. Edna Chavez, a high school student from Los Angeles, spoke about the loss of her older brother; Zion Kelly, a student from Washington, D.C., told about the loss of his twin brother and criticized lawmakers’ inaction. Lastly, Yolanda King, the 9-year-old granddaughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke about her dream: “I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world. Period.”

The tears kept falling as Miley Cyrus joined the crowd in singing her song, “The Climb.” Finally, Jennifer Hudson finished the incredible program with a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1960s protest anthem, “The Times They are a-Changin’.”

But the moment I will never forget was Parkland student Emma Gonzalez standing in silence during her speech for more than six minutes, marking the length of time it took for all 17 lives to be taken at Parkland.

The moment left us all in powerful thought. Like others, I reflected on all of it. The stories I had heard, the lives taken, and I let out a few more tears for the victims.

And then it hit me. We were doing something about it. It was a coming- of-age experience I will never forget.

Poer wastes no time placing blame for the current predicament and declaring the size of our task ahead. “The adults have failed us,” he said. “What we are as a unit is a wave. To be silent is to be compliant, and to be compliant with the deaths of kids is the most un-American thing I can think of.”