The March for Our Lives, a national movement against gun violence drew over 1.2 million activists on Saturday, March 24th, 2018. I marched for my life.
On that day, I went to Washington, DC and marched for my life.
It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? To march for your life in our nation’s capital, to take part in a little piece of history. To join hundreds of thousands in taking a stance against gun violence in America, to be an activist.
Activist—it’s a powerful word, perhaps, too powerful. The thought of activism often shocks my generation into fear: after all, at our age, it’s incredibly difficult to think of our actions as making a difference.
Yet, the March for our Lives, as the largest youth-led protest since the Vietnam War, directly defies that. Many of us who marched haven’t voted in our first election, yet we were able to make national television.
In the end, becoming an activist was incredibly easy. I decided to march on a whim, so my family and I made the 4-hour drive from our home in North Carolina, marched for a few hours, then went home. We put our lives on pause for a few hours, yes, but right after we pressed un-pause, and just like that, our lives resumed as if it had never happened.
There was a painful irony to it all, how accessible a march against gun violence was. We were able to march, chant, do our part, and leave. But gun violence does quite the opposite: apart from the horrifying number of victims it claims in modern America, gun violence leaves a tornado of trauma in its wake. That irony provided a fury to it all, a deafening, unrestrained, guttural energy.
The March for Our Lives was my first march, and my expectations were high. I had done my research about the Women’s March and March for Science and knew the Parkland students organizing this march would make it equally impactful.
What I couldn’t anticipate was the gravitas. It’s incredibly difficult to describe that feeling—the elation, the nerves, the pride—when you first see those thousands of signs. I can only describe the small moments that led up to it—the blocked off streets, the scattered sign holders walking towards 12th St. and Pennsylvania, the official starting location for the march. But the intensity of seeing mothers march with strollers, elderly couples with matching signs, elementary schoolers with their teachers, all with a united goal of public safety: those moments are indescribable.
Despite arriving two hours before the march began, I could only reach the 7th street, 7 blocks away from the Capitol building—that’s the sheer number that turned out to the event. To my right was the building of National Archives, a towering marble structure with a barrier that extended 15 ft. into the air. Within the next 20 minutes, high school students began to climb up onto that barrier, using the nearby trees. Then, students began hauling their friends up the barriers as well, to the protest of the nearby police officer.
It was, quite literally, democracy in action: watching these young students help one another up a congressional building for a better view of the march. A few of these students held Majory Stoneman Douglas’ signature flag of an eagle. A few had signs bearing names and dates. But all of them were united by the common cause we were all marching for.
When the speeches began, everyone was in tears. From Edna Chavez, whose bilingual tribute to Southern Los Angeles and her slain older brother, to Naomi Wadler, who reminded the crowd of intersectional activism, to, of course, Emma Gonzalez, whose tearful silent 6 minutes and 20 seconds on stage was beyond chilling.
But just as important as the brilliant, awe-inspiring speakers and performers were the ordinary Americans that joined me in the march towards peace, that day. In front of me, the mother who brought her mother to protect their children and their future. The millennials from Alabama who marched to my left, who had driven to DC to represent the deep South. The retired soldier who the crowd happily parted to let through. And, of course, the energetic young couple and their 1st grader, who marched with a sign of his own.
That, in it’s purest form, is what democracy looks like.