The self-named “mass shooting generation” plans to walk out of school to commemorate that dark day, and to protest about how little has changed in 19 years. Two students murdered 13 victims before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Shots ripped through the nation’s consciousness at Columbine High School 19 years ago Friday — before most of this year’s high-school graduates were even born.
Now the self-named “mass shooting generation” plans to walk out of school to commemorate that dark day, and to protest about how little has changed. Two students murdered 13 victims before killing themselves.
Across the nation and the state, 2,400 events are planned, including dozens in South Florida, many of them concentrated around the current epicenter of shock and horror wrought by a semi-automatic weapon: Parkland.
The walkout was conceived Feb. 14, hours after bullets shattered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, leaving 17 dead and 17 more hurt, said Lane Murdock, a 16-year-old sophomore at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut.
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“I’ve been so inspired by the MSD students, they are the leaders and the heroes of our generation,” said Murdock, who’s been getting some help from Change.org and Indivisible, a grass-roots resistance organization. “We’re not going to hope and wish anymore. We’re going to demand.”
Ryan Deitsch, 18, a Stoneman Douglas High senior, who is among the #NeverAgain student activists at the Parkland school, said he’s glad to see demonstrations for sensible gun laws continue — independent of his group’s organizing.
“We’ve been dealing with this for 19 years,” he said, explaining how he’s going to be part of the day’s events.
In Connecticut, Murdock said that before all Parkland’s dead were accounted for, she put out her petition for people to join her walkout. And the idea quickly went viral, she said.
Murdock said her age group has no problem staying focused, refusing to become numb to gun violence.
“What’s going to be different this time is we have a young generation who know how to use the internet,” Murdock said. “We have the tools to talk about it and they can’t stop us.”
Based on the number who have signed up through a website, Murdock is estimating this event could draw nearly 2 million participants.
Ariel Feldman, 17, a 12th-grader at Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, is hoping for a modest 150 to show up at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale at 9 a.m. and take part in a march to Fort Lauderdale City Hall, where there will be a two-hour event with speakers and rallying.
She got some family friends to donate a bus to bring those without a car. Feldman, who lives in Tamarac, has experienced the terror of a shooting alert.
“I spent two hours in lockdown,” she said. “Police were everywhere. We were just hiding in a dark classroom.”
At Stoneman Douglas, Feldman had attended plays and summer camps.
“There doesn’t need to be any more senseless death,” she said.
Officially, both public school systems in Broward and Miami-Dade counties say they are willing to give students the space to walk out to mark the day — as long as they stay on campus. It’s a matter of safety, said John Schuster, spokesman for Miami-Dade schools.
“The administration has been working with students as they organize this, so that their right to express themselves is respected,” Schuster said, noting that most secondary schools in the district have a track-and-field area students will be encouraged to use.
Those who leave campus may be subject to disciplinary actions in both school districts, according to statements from both school systems.
The Palm Beach County school district couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Frank DeAngelis, the retired principal of Columbine High School, would rather see students perform 13 acts of kindness to honor the 13 Columbine victims who died that day. From that day forward, class has never been held at Columbine High School on April 20.
“We want to honor the 13 we lost on April 20,” he said. “If you want to help us honor Columbine, stay in class and do these acts of kindness. That would mean so much more to us than students walking out on that day.”
But those walking out Friday say this is the most visible way to keep pushing for change.
Calvary Christian’s Feldman said she’s found herself pushing back against charges that she and the organizers are looking for an excuse to party, especially since “4/20” has become known as an annual marijuana holiday.
“We are demanding change because it’s been 19 years since the Columbine shooting and no one has done anything,” she said. “We are demanding change because it’s been too long.”
(Staff writer Susannah Bryan contributed to this report.)