I was in fifth grade when the Sandy Hook shooting changed my life. It was about 20 miles away from my elementary school, but I didn’t have to see a gunman or feel a bullet. As we sat in our darkened classroom, shivering from the air vents on the floor and whispering to one another, the kids with me in that classroom had no clue how drastically our lives would be affected. The fear that bubbles in the corner of a dark classroom was nothing compared to the notion that school, school of all things, wasn’t safe. This stronghold of security could no longer be trusted. And by that measure, nothing could be trusted.
Fast forward to six years after the Sandy Hook shooting, on a bright, crisp Tuesday afternoon, I sat curled up in the corner of my English classroom, my girlfriend’s hand clenched in mine, as police entered my school and exited with a student in handcuffs. Six years, only a week or so after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, countless hours and minutes of me watching myself die, watching my friends and siblings die, with everybody carried out of the shootings, and my body and mind was consumed with rage and fury. How were people so complacent? Why did nobody care? How was my life and the life of people I care about so insignificant to those with the most of power?
The protest phrase became my mantra: Enough IS enough. I began to speak out, on a local and national level, writing speeches and talking to politicians in my area. I began acting out, participating in both the walkouts of 2018 and gathering my friends to start campaigns against different organizations and various politicians who took bribes and valued money over the lives of the young citizens they swore to protect. Together, we retaliated.
The initial fear and mistrust planted in me by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary will never go away. This is a feeling that will stay with me and my entire generation for as long as we’re alive. But there’s no reason that any other generation should ever have to know the pain of having their lives valued as next to nothing. As we start the new year of 2019, it feels as if complacency at the progress in America as become almost complete, solid and unwavering. I am here to remind you that there is always more to be done. The fight dies when we stop, and the kids die when the fight dies. Get involved like your life depends on it, because for me, it does.