On April 20, 1999, the world stood in shock. Two students opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 of their classmates, one teacher, and injuring 21 others. Last Friday on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, students of all levels across the country walked out of their classrooms in protest of gun violence.
That Friday morning, after the second period dismissal bell rang, Cedar students flooded the halls and made their way to the football field. Students gathered on the field with signs in their hands and fire in their hearts.
“It has been inspiring to just see all of these people that are so passionate about everything to come and give their time to making a change. It’s a really great thing. This is a community effort, and everyone is equal and everyone should be involved,” said Zach Holland, a senior who organized the event.
Students made Cedar Shoals High School one of the thousands of schools across the country that participated in this walkout against gun violence. Cedar Shoals’ chapter of the National Association of Students Against Gun Violence worked with administration so that student safety was assured during the walkout.
“It was really a great opportunity for me to see up close the passion and the drive that our students have,” said Cedar Shoals Principal, Deanne Varitek. “When I see students like them wanting to make things better and taking charge, I am filled up with hope for our future.”
2018 has been a tragically eventful year as far as gun violence, with 96 mass shootings, including 20 that took place on school grounds. In just the first four months of this year, 158 innocent people have lost their lives, and an additional 322 have been injured in mass shootings.
“Even at 7 years old I knew what I wanted. I quickly became tired of hearing that they had to die simply because the shooter was crazy,” said Camryn Tanner, who lost her father to gun violence in 2009. “But yet, I quickly began keeping this all to myself because of the adults who, despite what I had seen, disregarded me and shut me down for such open criticism and anger towards the NRA, just because I’m a kid. Because we are all kids. Kids who walked out of school today for those who walked into school, or work, or theater, who could not leave until their bodies were identified. To that we say no more.”
After the Valentine’s day shooting this past February where 3 teachers and 14 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida were killed with another 17 injured, many more students began to voice their opinions. Students nationwide began working together to make a change. With this, the National Association of Student’s Against Gun Violence was started.
“I started NASAGV at Cedar, and it has been great. It kind of all blew up in a week or so. It started in Florida, and Cedar is actually the first Georgia chapter. The more people we get involved the better. I want to spread the idea that every individual is important to the movement,” said Tanner.
NASAGV held a meeting last week to put together final plans for the walkout. The meeting welcomed non-members to come and give suggestions as well as get more information on the walkout.
Three days after the open NASAGV meeting, students staged the walkout, gathering on the football field where NASAGV members set up a podium and microphone where students delivered speeches.
Senior Riley Hefner was one of the few that used her voice to make a difference.
“I was proud of my original speech, but when I got up on that podium I just got so angry. Nothing is happening in Congress and they’re just allowing it to happen. That just made me so mad, and I think my anger fueled the anger of the crowd. We are all gonna go out and try and make that difference now,” Hefner said.