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The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida hit close to home for multiple reasons. One of those reasons was that I have family friends who live around that area, who were thankfully unharmed. Another one being the fact that I knew that one of those seventeen dead kids could’ve been me. That could’ve been my school being shot up, and those could’ve been my friends murdered in cold blood. The very thought of it struck fear in my heart, knowing that I could be next.
I watched videos about the tragic event on the news and cried, my heart hurting for these students and their families who were slaughtered so mercilessly at the hands of someone they all knew. And the part that hit me the most was when a student spoke up and stated that most of the students had predicted it. “A lot of people were saying it was going to be him,” they said. “A lot of kids threw jokes around saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school. It turns out that everyone predicted it.”
That sentence terrified me, because I knew a kid like that. I had an ex-friend like that.
I remember when I first heard about the march going on and I felt my heart begin to race with excitement. My sadness about this heartbreaking incident soon turned into anger that desperately needed to be expressed. I was pissed off and ready to call for a change, so the moment I first saw a post on Instagram announcing the march, I made sure my parents knew that I would be attending the one in New York City.
The day of the march started out as a cold day, but as the sun beat down on us supporters while we walked, I was quickly warmed up. When I first arrived, I didn’t believe that there would be so many people attending; I figured that, since we were only about three hours away from Washington, D.C., most people would want to go to the main event. I clearly stood corrected as almost 200,000 people attended. I was surrounded in a sea of thousands of individuals, and I personally loved it. It gave me a sense of belonging, because these people were marching for the same reasons I was, and they believed the same things I believed.
The march began at 72nd Street by Central Park West. I was accompanied by my father, my cousin, and one of my best friends. None of them were very much interested in the march, but had gone along with me in support of what I was doing. We took a taxi most of the way there, but once we had almost arrived, the traffic got so bad that we decided to walk the rest of the remaining few blocks. As we walked to where the march would commence, I saw many people—most of them in groups, but some alone—carrying painted signs for the protest. Most of them had smiles on their faces, excited for the day ahead of them, and I couldn’t help but smile, too—they were just like me.
I have many favorite memories from this event. The first one was when the crowd suddenly stopped and rallied in front of Central Park. People were chanting, yelling protests. I was surprised by how many children I saw amongst the crowd, carrying signs of their own, followed by seemingly supportive parents/guardians.
I wanted to get a better view of what was going on in the crowd ahead of me, and I luckily spotted a streetlight that could give me a boost. I climbed on and looked around, and I no longer wanted to come down. I saw thousands of people before me, some talking and some screaming. Others stood quietly in their groups, talking amongst themselves. There was a group of teenagers behind me climbing poles and singing songs with each other, laughing loudly. I found it funny, in a messed up sort of way, how a protest against death could portray life so beautifully.
When I finally began to reach the end of the march at around 4:00 in the afternoon, my cousin and friend had both long ago left me to wait in Central Park; only my father continued to march along with me. Suddenly, a lady came up to me with a camera in hand. I knew that she wanted a picture of my sign, which asked in various colors: "Why is healthcare a privilege but owning a gun is a right?" It had become common at that point for people to ask me to stop for a picture. I had gotten multiple compliments on it throughout the day, as people said it was their favorite sign so far, or that they agreed with my bold statement.
This woman, who was clearly much older than me, smiled kindly and, of course, asked to take a picture of my sign. I said yes, and as she did so, she told me, "I'm a nurse, so that sign means a lot to me." For some reason this hit me hard and made me realize that there are people fighting besides the youth, when all this time I had believed we were alone in this battle. Our voices really are finally being heard.
Generation Z and the millennials have been known as multiple things: lazy, selfish, difficult, rude, etc. We’ve been known as a couple of positive things, as well—but never as revolutionaries. As Emma Gonzalez stated in her noble speech: “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks.” After this experience, I know that we will be.