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Once A Week

Why I Chose To March For My Life

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Leah Rubino McGhee, Contributor

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On March 24, I decided to take part in the March For Our Lives rally at the Rhode Island State House. Before attending this demonstration, before exercising my right to protest, I was asked by multiple people: “Why?”

Peers, friends, and even people I have never spoken to all seemed to have an opinion on my personal decision. I was told that I was wasting my time, that protests and/or walk-outs didn’t have an impact. I was met with arguments opposing gun control, met with snarky remarks in favor of our current president, and met with overall scrutiny for my desire to take a stand for what I believe in. More than anything, though, people simply asked me why I wanted to march.

I knew before I wrote this article, my first one for our school newspaper, that I wanted to answer that question. I also knew, particularly through my organizational brainstorming, that it might take me seven pages and many paragraphs to explain my stance on the key issue at hand: gun control. I could sit here, and type out every clause that I feel should be instituted, or every law to be rewritten. I could explore how mental health affects this issue, and how the corruption in our government makes this such a monumental and difficult subject matter to address and solve.

I could tell you that Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996, when a man used a legally owned Colt AR-15 SP1 to kill 35 people, because lawmakers chose to ban military style and assault weapons days after the attack. I could even explain, tirelessly, that this is not a partisan issue; that there have been mass shootings before Trump, and may very well be after his presidency. I could write an essay on any of these aforementioned points. But, today, I choose to answer that question with this: I marched for those who could not.

On average, in the year 2018, the United States has experienced a school shooting once a week. Once a week, kids in classrooms are told to run for their lives. Once a week, teenagers crawl under desks and shudder silently in closets. Once a week, college students are woken up by the sound of gunshots outside their dorms. Once a week, kids just like you, and just like me, are killed in the one place they are supposed to feel completely safe in, the one place that is supposed to protect them as they learn and grow. Those kids will never go to prom. Those kids will never graduate. Those kids will never go to college. Those that survive will have their innocence crippled, friends and teachers ripped from them, and lives, as they once knew them, shattered.

That is why I march. I march for the victims and the wounded and the survivors and the witnesses. Every week, I am given a new reason to march. A new school to cry for and new faces to mourn. I march to remember every single person that has been “touched by the cold grip of gun violence,” as Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez so bravely put it. I march to be a part of a large, collective voice which calls on our government to pass even the simplest piece of legislature to save young lives, lives much like those that could not be saved.

At the Rhode Island State House, I heard beautiful speeches and I read powerful signs. So many little moments of that day truly moved me, but there was one instant that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

I arrived at the steps of the State House, surrounded by people of all ages and ethnicity, carrying colorful signs. People were smiling, others looked angry, and some seemed to show no emotion at all. I turned to my mother, and told her that I would be right back. I don’t know why I did it, but I ran up the steps as far as I could get. I turned, and looked across the sea of people. As I scanned the faces and I read the signs, a million thoughts ran through my head. I thought about Sandy Hook and about Parkland, I thought about every active shooter drill I’ve ever been a part of. I thought about every teenager, just like me, who was out there that day and all across the country. And I thought about all of the teens and young children who weren’t, because they didn’t have a choice. I hadn’t realized it, but I was sobbing. I lifted my arms in the air to hold up my “ENOUGH” sign, and I shouted “Protect kids, not guns!” until I couldn’t choke the words out anymore.

That day, I was met with hugs. I was met with photos taken of me, and I was met with sorry smiles. I was met with a woman who wrapped me in her arms and told me she was sorry, and a man who held my shoulders and told me “We’re all here for you, and kids like you, today.” I was met with compassion, kindness, and genuine understanding. It is teens like us that have grown up in this active-shooter generation, our lives are at risk and we deserve to have a voice.

I write this article not to push my beliefs or to seek admiration. I write this article to answer the question many deemed themselves entitled to a response to: “Why did you march?”

Unless effective change occurs, I will have a new answer, once a week.

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