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March For Our Lives: My First Time

India Yeoh

March 30th, 2018

On March 24th, 2018, hundreds of thousands of people gathered around the country to protest against gun violence and advocate for gun control (for those who are unaware). The following recounts my experience at the march:

 

When I first heard about the March For Our Lives, I was immediately excited. As someone who had never taken part in a protest before, I was curious as to what the march would be like. Even though I had heard about other marches, I never could have imagined how empowering the experience would be.

 

While taking the subway to 72nd street to meet up with the group of kids from my school going to the march, I felt almost ashamed of my large sign proclaiming: “my life > your gun.” I didn’t want to get into any trouble. But the number of people on the train carrying signs or wearing buttons and pins on their shirts reassured me that I wasn’t alone, and once I exited the station, I felt much better. Hundreds of people were crowding the block, many carrying signs and some that I recognized from my school. I joined my friends, and as we walked up to 77th street, I gained the courage to raise my sign high above my head, proclaiming my views for everyone to see. I wasn’t afraid, and neither were the hundreds of thousands of people I am honored to have marched with that day. We all knew what we were fighting for.

 

I hadn’t really known very much about gun violence before the shooting in Parkland, but once I did my long overdue research, I was horrified. Schools are supposed to be spaces to learn, and kids should not have to go to school worrying if they will ever return home. Teachers are supposed to educate kids, not risk their lives protecting them. And on the day of February 14th, seventeen people never returned home to their families. But until Nikolas Cruz fired his first shot, he had not broken any law. There was nothing preventing him from owning a gun at age nineteen. Doesn’t this seem like a problem? Schools are supposed to be safe, but imagine how easy it was for him to walk into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and fatally shoot seventeen people. I remember when the Sandy Hook shooting happened in 2012, but at the time I was only eight. The gravity of the situation had not been carved into my mind. Now, at age thirteen, I realize that this issue has been completely downplayed throughout my life. No one has ever told me how horrific and how common gun violence is. This is not something that I am supposed to get used to. This is not supposed to be something that happens on a regular basis. But as of now, I am not even shocked when hearing that a school shooting has taken place. School shootings cannot be a regular occurrence. Something has to change.

 

The march continued from 77th street to 45th street. And all of it was so exhilarating, whether we were chanting or hearing speeches from some of the surviving high school students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Being able to join a vast number of people who are just as passionate about ending gun violence as I am, seeing my friends work super hard to create signs depicting creative but powerful slogans, joining and even leading chants -- my experience at the march was unforgettable and incredibly inspiring. For my first time at an activism event, it was more than I could have hoped for.

This surge of empowerment is far from over. More than 200,000 New Yorkers banding together as one to stand up for what we believe in and for what should be our rights. Over 800 marches in different cities around the U.S. So many people fighting for the same thing. And I know this will not be my last march. It is only the beginning.