By: Ira Sharma
I was born in 2006, and I would turn 6 years old a few months before the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. At the time I was far too young to understand what a “mass shooting” was, but as I grew older, these events became regular occurrences, and they faded in my memory as the years went by. As awful as that sounds, the shootings became so commonplace there was an almost numbness towards these tragedies that I saw. My family and I would watch the news at 5:30, and it felt like almost a weekly occurrence that another shooting would occur. One that hit at my heart more than others was the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting. I was only in the 7th grade at the time, but the shooting made me realize that my school could be next. There was even a walkout in our entire district to honor the lives of those who had lost their lives, and while we weren’t allowed to participate, it struck me just how close to home this shooting was. I remember starting to look around my classrooms and looking for places to hide in case of a shooting, assessing just how dangerous my desk position was, and looking to the classroom door wondering if someone would just start shooting. My entire life we’ve done school shooter drills at school, at least a few times a year. Every teacher goes over the plan at least once a semester to make sure we know just what to do come time. The plan usually went to turn off the lights, cover the window, lock the door, and either hide beneath our desks or in a closet, as silently as possible to avoid any attention. As months went by and more shootings happened, teachers would sit us down and have conversations on the likelihood of shooting, for what to do if we were trapped in the hallway or restroom. I’m currently a rising freshman in high school, and even with the COVID-19 pandemic looming, the thought of school shootings still creates a horrible image in my mind. In the case of the Stoneman shooting, there were many, too many, warning signs for the possibility of the event. Nikolas Cruz, the shooter, even once commented “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” on a Youtube video, and someone even submitted a tip to the FBI about him. This and many other warning signs created an image that should have been impossible to ignore, yet it was. This tragedy not only showed the nation how dire our situation with guns is, but also our hidden mental health epidemic, especially among our youth. No other country has as many mass shootings and deaths caused by guns than the U.S. Yet, our lawmakers fail to pass gun control legislation every year. However, out of the ashes of Stoneman-Douglas High rose March for Our Lives, an organization founded by survivors of the shooting. When you go to their website, the first thing that pops up is “We are the voices you can’t ignore. We are the young people committed to ending gun violence in our schools, in our communities, in our nation. This is about reclaiming our futures.” As I learned more about their organization, I realized just how much bigger their movement is. They’ve not only gotten youth to vote in record numbers, but they’ve also proven just how different this generation is. Many of the most respected and trusted people in Gen Z’s lives have brushed this generation off as useless, lazy, not-going-to-amount-to-anything. I disagree- Gen Z has accomplished more in our first few years of life than that of any other generation. While we haven’t seen war (yet), and we grew up with phones and tablets, we’re anxious to see change and aren’t afraid to be the ones creating it. Other than March for Our Lives, our generation has created activists, scientists, and the leaders of tomorrow who will quite literally revolutionize the world. With resources available to all on the internet and through social media, Gen Z is most definitely going to change everything. Incredible people like Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, and many others are all part of Gen Z. We’re yet to see the full impact of our generation, but in my view, it’ll be more than ever before. We grew up scared, but I’m sure we won’t let another generation go through what we have.