It has been one year since the March For Our Lives. On this anniversary, I want to remember why we are fighting.
It has been just more than a year since Jaelynn Willey was shot in the face and killed by her ex-boyfriend at Great Mills High School, a Maryland High School. I remember that day vividly.
I was sitting in my first period class when my mom sent me a text. The room was silent as we worked on our assignment, but my words cut through that quiet. I was in such shock I could barely hear them as they left my mouth “Oh my God.”
The class turned to look at me as tears welled in my eyes. I read the text aloud to my class.
“There’s an active shooter at Great Mills right now.” Our teacher tried to reassure us that this couldn’t be true. Then he got an email from the principal detailing as much of the situation as they knew. There was a shooter, but they did not know much else.
That day was the longest of my life to date. We were expected to continue with classes as students from Great Mills were bussed to our school to reunite with their parents.
My heart sunk and still sinks every time I think about the family waiting in our auditorium for their daughter to come find them when she never would.
Our school had terrible cell reception, so we couldn’t find out if any of our friends were hurt. We couldn’t call anyone, or follow the news.
Eventually, when the administration realized students can’t learn when they’re fearing for their friends’ lives, they sent us home early.
When we left the building, there were cops and ambulances and what looked like black tanks everywhere. There were so many red and blue flashes, it looked like a sick Fourth of July display.
I couldn’t control my body’s response, I started sobbing. Heaving. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see. My school’s parking lot looked like a warzone. My friends’ school had become one. The undeniable truth of what had happened shook me to my very core. I was absolutely terrified.
Two days later, Jaelynn succumbed to her injuries in the hospital. Four days later, I was in Washington D.C., for the March for Our Lives.
I don’t know the right answer. But what I know is that Jaelynn should be graduating from high school next year, and she never will. Seventeen children from Marjory Stoneman Douglas never will. Thirteen children from Columbine never did.
There is not enough ink to print all the names of children with so much potential who were ripped from the arms of their friends and family before they were not even given a chance to live.
So that’s why I’m fighting. To get justice for those babies. For Jaelynn. For the MSD students. For the Columbine students. For the students who died after thoughts and prayers were sent to the students who went through the last shooting.
We said “never again”. and yet it hasn’t stopped. So the fight isn’t over. Jaelynn, you will have justice.