Anna Hurley | Maret School
As an almost 16-year-old girl living in Washington DC, the last thing I ever thought I would have to worry about was staring down a gun in my own school. Fortunately, I haven’t had to. Just because I haven’t experienced a school shooting myself, I have had the unbelievable experience of meeting a boy who nearly escaped death on February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he came to Washington, DC for the March for Our Lives.From a young age, I have believed that if I want to see change, I need to fight for it myself. After the Sandy Hook massacre, I led my 5th grade class in a moment of silence followed by the making of a paper crane chain to send to Sandy Hook Elementary. At the time, it was all I could think of doing, and, even though it provided support to students and families, unfortunately, gun laws in America remained the same. This is why, after 6 years of lawmakers refusing to enact change and protect Americans, I joined with thousands of other students to make change ourselves.
As a sophomore at Maret School - my K-12 school in Northwest DC - I have organized gun violence awareness days, banner making to send to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a letter writing campaign, a walkout, and a benefit concert for the victims within the past month. However, the work that has been happening within in the Maret community is nothing in comparison to what the amazing students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have done. I marched with my mom and friends on March 24th to support the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their hunger for change.
Ever since I became aware of the issue of gun safety, at around 10 years old, I held a firm belief that guns should not be in the hands of Americans, unless in the hands of law enforcement and military personnel. Throughout the past couple of years, as I have been exposed to news of other school shootings and interpreted the Constitution in American History courses, I still believe all Americans should not have access to automatic weapons and most Americans should not have access to any guns at all. For the many of Americans who believe that my opinions are in violation of the Second Amendment, they must remember that when the Second Amendment was written, an African-American was counted as ⅗ths of person. I say to them: times have changed, for the better, and we need to change too.
I have been anxiously awaiting the March for Our Lives since it was announced. The day of the march was bustling and full of excitement and energy. The march itself was the most awe-inspiring event of my life. The combination of eager citizens and empowered students all culminated in a day of success and hope. The most powerful moment of the day for me was in the evening following the march. Later in the evening, I attended a post-march event at a family friend’s home, a fundraiser for the Brady Campaign. Besides meeting two incredible representatives from the Brady campaign, I met a student survivor from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and his mom. The boy I met, Dylan, is a junior and was in a history classroom learning about the Holocaust when the shooter opened fire, killing two students. Although he managed to walk away physically unharmed, Dylan now calls the shots in his family, according to his mom. Whatever he needs has been put above her needs because he will always have the memory of living through a traumatic event.
I was inspired by the bravery of Dylan and his family. The emotion that came over me that evening took hours to process. In the moment, I felt proud to have met a survivor, but I wasn’t sure how to process meeting someone who narrowly escaped a dangerous epidemic sweeping across America. As I got in the car, I began to break down. I had just shaken the hand of a teenage boy who is at the center of an American tragedy, one that could have happened in any school but happened in his. Somehow, Dylan and his fellow classmates are turning their pain into power. I hope one day I have the same strength as Dylan, to turn my anguish into achievement. The students, children, and people like Dylan are the foundation for a movement sure to shake the core of our government. My goal is to continue to march, write, and speak up, not only for myself but in hopes to empower other students — and eventually lawmakers — to finally write legislation to protect Americans. Because enough is enough.