Sissy Sheridan: On Gun Violence

On February 14th, 2018, seventeen students were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Devastated, outraged, and afraid for their own lives, students across America began to protest the gun violence epidemic. Sissy Sheridan was one of them. This is her story:

February 14, 2018. April 20, 1999. December 14, 2012. April 16, 2007. February 27, 2012. These are just a few of the dates on a long list that all have one devastating thing in common: School shootings. They should have been ordinary school days full of laughter, pop quizzes and bad cafeteria food. But instead they were chaotic, violent, and filled with loss. Innocent people lost their lives in a place that should feel safe and secure. According to the non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, “a total of 65 school shootings have occurred on school campuses across the United States as of October 4, 2018.”

March for our Lives was borne out of the horrible massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That shooting, on Valentine’s Day 2018, left seventeen dead. Student survivors planned and orchestrated a march on the United States Capitol on March 24, 2018 soon after the shooting. According the The March for our Lives website, there were approximately 700 other ‘sister marches’ planned around the country. Because I live in Washington, D.C., I was eager to march and join my voice with so many others. Kids and adults came from all over the world. It was inspiring.

On the Sunday morning of the march, I made a poster that read, “Love your kids, not your Guns” on one side, and the other side it read, “Am I next?” My friend Logan and our families took the subway down to the ‘Mall’, which is an area that encompasses Pennsylvania Avenue leading directly to the U.S. Capitol. There were already thousands of people walking towards the capitol when we arrived, and it was honestly astounding. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, as this was my first march. There were banners and posters of all kinds and T-Shirts with messages of hope as well as anger. There were people of all ages and ethnicities, people with strollers and people with walkers. But the faces were all the same: determined.

Several major news organizations, such as CBS and CNN, cite the crowd that day between 200-300 thousand people. The march itself was a peaceful day with purpose. There were all kinds of reactions amongst those gathered: loss, anger, sadness, despair. But there was also hope. I was there to march for myself, my fellow students, and for the fallen.

There were many people in the entertainment industry that encouraged the marchers with their talents and personal stories. Among them were Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Lin Manuel-Miranda, and Ben Platt. Other speakers shared very personal stories about how they lost a loved one to gun violence. Many survivors from past school shootings spoke about how it affected them and discussed steps their communities had taken over the years in order to better protect their local schools. It was sobering to realize just how many school shootings have taken place.

We were at the march for about two hours before heading home. On our way to the subway, people had begun to lay all their signs down as a tribute to those who had lost their lives to gun violence. I sat down with my sign and had the side that said “Am I next?” facing outward. I asked my mom to get some pictures so I could spread my message through social media - but quickly, to my surprise, people crowded around to take pictures of me and all the signs next to me. I left my sign with countless others at the metro entrance as a tribute. I’m quite sure such a display would cause anyone taking the subway to take notice of the raw messages.

No student should have to worry that they’re not going to come home from school that day. We can make a difference! If you want to help make a change, get involved! Email and call your U.S. Representative and Senators. Tell them how you think we can make schools a safer place so we don’t need to hold another vigil or organize another march. But most importantly, vote! Even if you aren’t old enough to vote, you can still volunteer for candidates whose policies you believe in. You can still encourage everyone you know 18 and older to vote. If we want to see change as young people, we have to be that change. We are a bright and powerful generation full of compassion for others, and we can be the generation to make common sense gun safety a reality.

Click on the link below to find out more about The March for our Lives movement:

Click the link below to find out who your U.S. Representative is:

Click the link below to find out who your U.S. Senator is:

Click on the link below to find out more about gun safety in your community.