About 800,000 Americans packed the streets of Washington, D.C. yesterday to demand an end to the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Speakers took to the stage to share their stories, mourn their losses, and make clear to elected leaders that they were not going to take it anymore.
I witnessed the march myself, and I caught up with a fellow Nevadan after the march to get his thoughts on what had just occurred. Here’s how it all went down.
How it felt to be smack-dab in the middle of history
I could feel the energy as soon as I arrived at the March for Our Lives site. I noticed the students and educators who traveled to the Mall from Maryland, Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, and even Nevada (more on that later) to participate in some “small-d democracy”. The mood shifted at times from mourning those lost to celebrating how far this new movement has already come, and from defiance of the gun lobby’s flippant dismissal of their movement to vigilance in continuing the work after the march concludes.
Gun violence survivors took to the stage to recount what happened and who they lost, especially survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And yes, we were here for Emma Gonzalez’s remarkable moment of silence that added quite the exclamation point to her already powerful speech. We were also here for 11-year-old Naomi Wadler’s equally cogent speech that encouraged young women of color to speak up and remind the nation that they are far more than just numbers.
This is merely a sampling of the many amazing moments of the march. And this is just a glimpse of one section of the march space. With some 800,000 people all in attendance, it was a little difficult to capture them all at once.
“It’s incredible to have [800,000] people in Washington, D.C. to stand up for our kids and demand they be kept safe.”
– Adam Berger, CCSD teacher
And yet, shortly after the march I did run into a friendly, familiar face. Adam Berger is a special education teacher in the Clark County School District (CCSD). He traveled all the way from there to here to send a message from his students and fellow educators: “Since 1999, Columbine, there hasn’t been any action taken on gun control in America. […] It’s incredible to have [800,000] people in Washington, D.C. to stand up for our kids and demand they be kept safe.”
Berger then recounted how students walked out of school to protest Congress’ inaction on gun violence, then wrote about why they walked out. “Kids wrote about what happened on October 1, and about what happened on February 14 at Douglas High School. Students do have fears. Students do wonder whether they will make it home safe after school.”
Berger then concurred with the students’ demand that their schools be armed with knowledge, not firearms: “We need to fund schools and educators with the proper resources.” He then explained how that’s working back home. “In Nevada, we were able to fund more social workers and mental health services. It’s making a major difference, just to have a full-time social worker and full-time psychologist. Teachers need to be […] given the resources to protect other teachers and protect students in a meaningful way.”
“Go to their state legislators, go to their members of Congress, go to their Governors and have conversations with decision makers about gun control.”
– Adam Berger
Where does the March for Our Lives go from here? In the coming days, we’ll examine what the organizers have accomplished since Parkland, and how this may result in a true, lasting impact. Throughout the program, speakers urged those who can register to vote to make their voices heard on the streets and at the ballot box.
Adam Berger agreed, as he urged his fellow Nevadans to remind our elected leaders who elected them and how they can actually lead. “Go to their state legislators, go to their members of Congress, go to their Governors and have conversations with decision makers about gun control.”
I look forward to seeing how that conversation proceeds back home in Nevada. Students go to school to learn knowledge and life skills, not to dodge bullets. They deserve an open, thorough, and honest conversation, and our elected officials need to pay closer attention to the content of their message than certain words that may be used in the delivery.