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Parkland shooting victims honored at McLean vigil

Students organize event in remembrance of those killed in the MS Douglas High School shooting

Senior+Yasmin+Berrada+places+the+last+rose%2C+culminating+the+vigil.+Each+victim+of+the+shooting+had+a+minute+of+silence+dedicated+to+their+memory.+%28photo+by+Maren+Kranking%29
Senior Yasmin Berrada places the last rose, culminating the vigil. Each victim of the shooting had a minute of silence dedicated to their memory. (photo by Maren Kranking)

Senior Yasmin Berrada places the last rose, culminating the vigil. Each victim of the shooting had a minute of silence dedicated to their memory. (photo by Maren Kranking)

Senior Yasmin Berrada places the last rose, culminating the vigil. Each victim of the shooting had a minute of silence dedicated to their memory. (photo by Maren Kranking)

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The atmosphere on the football field Wednesday morning was a solemn one; as students gathered together, the unwavering focus was on 17 empty chairs lined up at the center of the circle. Students held a vigil during Highlander Time to honor the 17 students and faculty killed in the MS Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

Students gather on the football field on Feb. 23 for the Parkland Shooting vigil. Over 200 students attended the event. (photo by Maren Kranking)

“My cousins go to MS Douglas High School; one is a freshman, the other a senior,” junior Ava Liberty said, who started organization efforts for the event. “Right after it happened I was sad about it but I didn’t know that my cousins were there, so when I got the news it just hit on a different level. So I just thought, why not do something at McLean?”

Over 200 students gathered around the center of the field, where the 17 chairs stood in a line to represent the 17 lives lost. The vigil lasted for 17 minutes; each minute was dedicated to a victim of the shooting. As students stood in silence, Principal Ellen Reilly read each victim’s name and age, while a Leadership student placed a white rose on each chair.

“I think that the vigil was extremely necessary to pay our respects to the people who lost their lives in Florida as well as to the overarching issue of gun violence,” junior Shannon Stockero said, who attended the vigil. “I think it’s really great that the school addressed it in a peaceful way that allowed all the students to grieve, come together and move on past the trauma that’s happened in the last few days.”

Leadership students participate in the vigil on Feb. 23. Students were encouraged to come to the event, which lasted 17 minutes during Highlander Time. (photo by Maren Kranking)

The event was organized by Liberty and other students, emphasizing the greater role high schoolers have taken nationwide to combat gun violence in wake of the Parkland shooting. Parkland students have come to the nation’s capital to protest and talk to legislators and politicians, while schools across the country have organized vigils and walkouts during and after school.

“I think it has to be a student-run thing, because you are protesting and we faculty can’t endorse it, really—leaving campus and you guys doing anything that would be a problem,” history teacher Karen McNamara said. “It shows that you guys are becoming more politically active, and I think that’s a great thing.”

Because the vigil was planned only a day in advance, Stockero was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout of students on the field.

“I was uplifted by the amount of people that came out and supported, because I think in times when there’s a lot of anxiety around the school, we really need to unite and come [together] as a community,” Stockero said. “So just to see that many people out on the football field for one big cause, I thought that was really great and really powerful.”

The gathering for the vigil itself was not intended as a protest, but as a peaceful time to pay respects to those lost in the shooting violence.

“I think the first thing is to show that you are sad, and that you are upset, and that you are worried about this happening to you, and a vigil shows [this],” McNamara said. “And then a protest is kind of like the next step; first you pay your respects, and then now [you] want to get something done as a result of this happening.”

 

McLean students participated in a walkout following the vigil on Feb. 21, meeting in D.C. to protest in front of the White House. This walkout was one of the many planned in the upcoming month. (photo courtesy of Maria Gracheva)

Now, students are beginning to take this next step. Following the vigil, many McLean students joined the protests occurring throughout the nation by leading a school walkout and meeting in D.C. to protest gun control. Liberty said she is planning a walkout for McLean on March 14 in cooperation with other local high schools, and next Thursday students are organizing a walkout during Highlander Time. By organizing the McLean vigil, however, Liberty wanted to allow students to take a moment to remember those lost in the shooting before getting caught up in the political climate of the issue.

“I think honoring [the victims first] instead of just protesting is more powerful,” Liberty said. “I feel like doing [the vigil] made people realize how tragic it really is, and just set that in everyone’s head.”

This uprising of students taking on the responsibility of changing legislation in response to the Parkland shooting is unprecedented in regards to school shootings.

“I think [Parkland was] just kind of the last straw,” Liberty said. “People are continuously seeing these [shootings] on the news, and to have it happen again, and have no one do anything about it—it’s just really upsetting to everyone.”

In the following weeks, high schoolers in America will be taking a leading role in protesting against gun violence; students must continue making their voices heard in order to enact change.

“It’s really up to you guys to keep it in the focus of the media, of the school, of other kids your age, because after each one there has been this huge outcry that there should be something done, that there should be a change, but it has just never happened yet,” McNamara said. “Hopefully [now] that will change.”

Each chair and rose represents a life lost at MS Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The vigil was organized by McLean students a day prior to the event. (photo by Maren Kranking)

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