On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15. He was wearing a Douglas uniform, and a managed to enter the school unnoticed, despite the school’s request for the police to be called if he was seen on campus. Then, in the span of only six minutes, he shot and killed seventeen people and injured fourteen others. Because of the chaos, Cruz was able to slip silently out of the school. It took eighty minutes from the time of the first 911 call to locate him and bring him into custody.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High is located exactly 50 minutes from Miami Palmetto Senior High School. The reaction from Palmetto students to Cruz’s actions was agony, outrage, paranoia, and extreme concern. Many wondered what was standing in the way of a shooting of the same magnitude at Palmetto. The two high schools are similar in size, demographic, and location. After the fog cleared, students rallied to protest against gun violence, for gun control, and for school safety initiatives. Student leaders have risen around the school to demand safety precautions be taken, and to help the survivors of the shooting.
Immediately after the shooting, I organized an effort to collect letters of support for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Hundreds of Palmetto students participated, and many of the letters were placed on a large banner that was delivered to Parkland. My organization, SharingWear.org, also launched a new t-shirt to support the Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund, raising more than $400 to date.
In addition, I teamed up with my fellow Panther Anais Roatta to create a new organization, Students Against Gun Violence. The organization has a four part mission: supporting victims of gun violence, contacting legislators and school administrators to make student opinions on gun laws and safety programs known, registering students to vote and developing school safety initiatives. Our first effort has been a large letter-writing campaign, which is taking place in partnership with the Social Studies Honor Society. Students have written more than 500 letters to school board members, state representatives, and senators. “The letter writing campaign is a way to voice our opinions and produce change,” explains Anais. “By writing to our state representatives and legislators I truly believe we can change the minds of the people we have elected and work to achieve the safety that every student deserves.”
On March 14, Palmetto Senior students participated in the nationwide walkout. We formed a giant message on the school field and stood for 17 minutes of silence to honor the 17 victims in Parkland.
Some are worried that the outrage surrounding this shooting and others in the country will die down soon. In the wake of a tragedy, the cycle of events is normally the same. We mourn, we cry, we forget. What about the Parkland shooting was different? What about the Parkland shooting made people so angry that sitting back down was impossible? The difference is the students. Students, not just at Palmetto, but at schools around the United States, are determined to change the narrative of education. Here at Palmetto, students have promised to continue the fight, and to make sure no one forgets.
Nicole Markus is a freshman at Palmetto Senior High School and the founder of sharingwear.org.