SILVER SPRING — Students from various high schools in Montgomery County filled the auditorium at Montgomery Blair High School last night to welcome survivors from the Valentine’s Day shooting that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
As media waited outside during the event, a black van pulled up in front of the school at 7:52 p.m. and one by one, the survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School made their way into the building. Also in attendance was Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) representing the Parkland community, and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the organizer of the event. While media were not allowed inside at the request of Montgomery County high school students in attendance, Raskin said survivors would speak with reporters after the event. However, the Parkland survivors left afterwards without speaking to reporters, claiming fatigue.
Around 9:30 p.m., students began to leave the event, some deeply concerned. Sophie Holt, 16, a sophomore at Albert Einstein High School said she attended last week’s school walkout protest and attended this event at Blair because she believes the Parkland survivors’ movement is important and hopefully will change current gun laws.
“There has been so many mass shootings in the past 10 years in this country, we need a change in this country,” said Holt. “The fact that they’re [survivors] willing to stand up there and like, make a difference and get the message across to the country that we really need to make a change, I think that’s really cool,” she said.
Holt said she believes that the country definitely needs more laws on gun control and that she currently doesn’t feel safe at her school. “I don’t think that we need more guns, I don’t think fighting fire with fire is a good way to solve the situation,” she said. “My school has a history of crime, like the nickname for my school is ‘Crimestein,’ like it’s one of those things were we could have a shooting any day now and it’s kind of terrifying.”
“I have a personal history with gun violence, I’ve lost a lot of loved ones and I’ve grown up around mass shootings like I’ve seen it happen and it’s heartbreaking,” said Blair High School sophomore Lizzy Villatoro, 15. “The fact that these Parkland students came here, it just shows their courage, their bravery, and it shows that we have the power to really change the ideologies. It’s just really amazing and I just wanted to come out to support them.”
Afterwards, Raskin said to reporters that this meeting with the survivors of the Florida shooting has been the most inspiring and uplifting couple of hours that he has spent in a very long time. “They took a hopeless situation and they provided the hope. In the middle of all the darkness, they provided the light,” Raskin said.
Raskin described seeing the Parkland survivors interacting with local students as “just moving beyond words,” and they served as an inspiration for young people attending high schools like Blair, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walt Whitman, Springbrook, Wheaton, Rockville, and Richard Montgomery to stage walkouts and protest in front of the White House and the Capitol.
“They really have unleashed a social movement and a movement for change, this is exactly what we need” said Raskin. “I can tell you from Capitol Hill, we are in a situation of absolute deadlock and the young people are right. The NRA has been exercising a stranglehold over our politics, over our government and they are right to target the NRA.”
Deutch then addressed the media, saying that it was clear that the kids he represented were special but “seeing the interaction between our students and the students of Montgomery County one thing becomes really clear, this isn’t just a group of kids who care deeply about something. This is a group of kids who wanted to make change and are creating a movement,” said Deutch. “That’s what we saw there tonight, that’s what we’re going to see around the country and that’s what I fully expect to see on March 24 when the marching takes place here in Washington.”