To call it a
protest or demonstration would be to sully its dignity.
It was, instead, a
memorial service, a cry from the heart of children grieving and fearful.
There was no
mention of gun laws or gun control, no call at all for specific political
action, only a plea to stand together to end the violence.
At 10 a.m. today
several hundred students at Chesterton High School left their classes, filed
out the doors of the main entrance, and gathered by the flagpole, to
remember and honor the 17 shot to death exactly one month ago at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
There--while 15 or
so citizens watched form the sidewalk opposite--sophomore Sid Augustyn
delivered these words:
“One month ago
today, Nikolas Cruz stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, armed
with an AR-15-style rifle, and massacred 17 students and faculty members. We
all witnessed the news footage of students fleeing the terror, single file,
hands behind their heads with SWAT teams beside them. We witnessed their
tears afterwards as mothers embraced their children, but sadly today we
remember those who will never feel their mothers’ arms again.
“Today Parkland is
another name on the list of deadly mass shootings. These names come one
right after another--Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech--and now we add
Parkland. The time has come to stop adding names to this list and say
Never Again. No matter what political affiliation you have, and no
matter what you think the solution is, we can all agree that we cannot stand
idly by while these massacres continue within our nation’s schools, or
in this walk-out today, we are taking a stand together, in solidarity, to
say that the lives lost are not forgotten. They meant something. They meant
love to their families. They meant laughter to their friends. They were
athletes on teams. They were dancers on the stage. They were scholars with
promising college careers and future families of their own. They were
coaches on the field, and teachers in classrooms, and real people like us.
So their lives should mean something to us as well.
“By walking out
here today, we prove that their legacy will live on. The world is watching
us. No matter what you believe, on either side of the political aisle, stand
up for what you believe in. If more people were vocal and active like we are
today, the world would be a better place and we wouldn’t see the pain of
these school massacres like the one we stand in recognition of today. As the
students of Chesterton High School, and the students of America, we are the
future and we hold the power to make a change.”
The students then
stood in silence for 17 minutes, 17 of them holding a poster with the name
and photograph of a victim:
* Peter Wang, 15.
* Carmen Schentrup,
* Helena Ramsay,
* Meadow Pollack,
* Alaina Petty, 14.
* Joaquin Oliver,
* Gina Montalto,
* Cara Loughran,
* Luke Hoyer, 15.
* Christopher Hixon,
* Jaime Guttenberg,
* Aaron Feis, 37.
* Nicholas Dworet,
* Martin Duque
* Scott Beigel, 35.
* Alyssa Alhadeff,
At 10:23 a.m. the
students quietly re-entered the building.
“I’m just so proud
of every single one of them, just so proud,” mother Kelly Hennings told the
Chesterton Tribune. “I’m crying here. I’m digging my nails into my
hands trying not to. I don’t want them to be afraid. They believe in this.
They’re going to make change. They’re just amazing.”
“I saw greatness
today,” Henning added.
“I’m here to
support the students,” said Chesterton resident George Stone, not a parent.
“As an old Chicagoan, I sometimes wonder about the involvement of Hoosiers.
But here they are. I’m very proud of them.”
CHS history teacher
Bob DeRuntz had this to say about the walk-out: “We have a great student
body at CHS. I know they want action not only to support the families in
Florida but also to start a conversation that changes the status quo.
Instead of talking at each other, our students want meaningful
conversation where we talk to and listen to each other. They want
reasonable solutions to gun violence and improved school safety. If our aim
is to send our students into the world with strong voices then we need to be
willing to listen to their voices.”
The walk-out was
organized by Augustyn and seniors Ryan Day, Evan Little, Andrew Smenyak,
Hannah Mullin, Brinley Fowler, and Katelyn Balakir.