Just over a week ago, families, students, teachers and activists descended upon Washington, D.C., having come in droves by car and plane and bus. They chanted, shouted and in some cases cried until their voices were hoarse calling for stricter gun regulations.
Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed the city for the “March For Our Lives.”
After a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in February, the students of Parkland responded: “enough.”
So those students planned and led the march. Their parents, teachers and counselors supported them.
As students delivered speech after speech, making emotional appeals for action, their supporters listened with rapt attention.
NPR photographed and spoke with some of the people who attended the “March For Our Lives,” carrying the emotional weight of the day.
Mark Sterling and Jonathan
At just 8 years old, Jonathan Sterling was eager to be interviewed and talk about his time at the march.
“I’m going to tell my friends that violence is bad,” Jonathan says. His father. Mark, stood close by, chuckling.
“I’m here with my son,” Mark says, “because he’s the future, and I want to make sure that when the kids go to school, they’re there to learn and not have to worry about gun violence.”
Isabel, Vivi, Halle, Erin
Four young girls stood on a planter to look over the throng of march attendees. Their parents were about 5 feet away from them. Isabel, Halle, Vivi and Erin are all students, none older than 13. They say they went to the march to show the importance of feeling safe in their classrooms.
“I want to see a change,” Vivi says. “I want to see policy change so that we can feel safe in our schools.”
“I feel like this is important because school is the start of where my life will go, and if I don’t feel safe then there’s no way that my life’s going to go a good way,” Vivi says.
Ethan Polly, Will Jamieson, Adam Urbancic
Ethan Polly, Will Jamieson and Adam Urbancic stood outside of the Capital Grille after the march, still holding the megaphone that they used during the event.
“I came down with my mom because we are protesting the use of automatic guns. And 17 … were killed,” Ethan says, referencing the Parkland shooting.
None of the boys are older than 13. They got to the rally hours before it started, Ethan says, because they feel that raising awareness of gun violence is an important conversation for youth to have.
“It was really scary,” he says. “It’s just, 17 people died. And I go to school and I can’t really imagine that happening. But it happened. And it’s kind of hard to think about.”
“I’m here as a school counselor at an elementary school in a public school who’s troubled by how many kids have anxiety about so many things that are happening,” Valerie Linn says. Linn’s been a counselor in Gainesville, Fla., for 15 years.
She’s noticed a difference in the demeanor of people at her school since the Parkland shooting, she says.
“I really see it in teachers who look at a class every day and wonder what could happen. … How could they protect those precious lives?” she says.
Robert Varney, Lauren Benson, Savannah Bolten
Lauren Benson carried a tiny toy gun and walked with a flower tucked behind her ear at the march. She came with two friends: Robert Varney, who carried a sign criticizing Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, and Savannah Bolten, who carried a fistful of flowers.
“We’re carrying flowers to give out to people to thank them for being here but also kind of as a remembrance of everyone that’s died,” Bolten says. “You know, we couldn’t be there at their memorials but this is kind of our way to remember them.”
They wanted to show solidarity, not only with the people who died in the school shooting, but with children and teens who are now afraid to go to school.
“There were bomb threats at our high school this year,” Benson says, “where my little brother goes to school. He’s 17 years old and he had to do a lockdown and go outside and wait in a stadium to see if the school was going to be there.”
The trio were hopeful. They wanted the march to be an event to combat fear and have their political voices heard.
“I’m tired of waking up about once a month and hearing that some poor kids have died in a new school shooting,” Bolten says. “And I’m here to show politicians that enough is enough.”
Lauren Rupertus, Alexandra Leyton, Alexandra Kelly, Edan Lohr
“There are two [buses full] of kids here today from Concord High School in Wilmington,” Lauren Rupertus says. “Our entire school just gets together all the time and does stuff like this. We’re all very caring about the community and each other.”
Rupertus and her three friends, Alexandra Leyton, Alexandra Kelly and Edan Lohr had strayed from their pack, walking through the march in a smaller group.
“I’m almost 18,” Rupertus says. “I definitely wanted to go to something, and I’m really glad this happened now, before something else happens.”
They were pleased to see so many people their age at the march, but were even more pleased to see the droves of young children who came to the march with their parents.
“Because that’s the next generation,” Rupertus says. “That’s who’s going to grow up and that’s who’s going to make our laws in a couple of years.”
“We are going to be voting soon. We are going to be 18 soon. It’s our future, and we wanted to help the upcoming generations,” Leyton says.
Follow Greg Miller on Instagram and Twitter: @gregmillerfoto
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