Today is the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a monster using an AR-15 style semi-automatic weapon murdered 14 students and 3 staff members. The shooting galvanized the surviving students who went on to create the powerful gun control movement, March for Our Lives. These children are leaders; they courageous and indefatigable in their work to prevent more school shootings. They are heroes in the truest meaning of the word.
SinceParkland.org launched this week, and it is in its own powerful way a continuation of the work the Stoneman Douglas students began last year. The website features profiles of nearly 1,200 children who have died from gun violence since the Parkland shooting, each profile written by one of more than 200 teen reporters. It is a heartbreaking reminder that this country loves its guns more than its children.
What is additionally heartbreaking about this website is that it doesn’t include the nearly 1000 children who use guns to commit suicide each year. SinceParkland.org explains their reasoning here, and I respect it, but we as a society must accept that easy access to guns makes suicide for anyone — child or adult — more likely to happen. Suicide counts as gun violence. Suicide counts.
I personally knew one of the children profiled on this site. He and my son were friends since they were in the same kindergarten class and they remained friends through middle school. He came to birthday parties at my house. He spent the night here. And he’s gone now because another child had access to a gun. That child is not included on the site because of the reasons mentioned above. He was also in my son’s kindergarten class. In fact, there is a piece of art made by this kindergarten class that hangs in my house today. The piece includes the thumbprints and the names of these two boys. They are next to each other. They were best friends.
I think about both of their mothers every single day.
The loss of these two children has been devastating to our community in a way that I haven’t talked about here before now because it’s too close, it’s too personal. But when I found his name on the site yesterday, I understood that to not talk about it is cowardice. To not hold in the faces of our lawmakers the names of those children whom we have lost — to not confront those cowards who have done little to nothing to prevent the loss of another 2,200 children next year — is to fail the dead. It is to betray their memories.
SinceParkland.org must be seen. You must look.