March For Our Lives 03.24.18

I don't know where you stand in this chapter of American history, but I know where I do. Today I joined about 20,000 others in Parkland, Florida, in honor of the lives affected by gun violence and to vocalize my position and support with Moms Demand Action -- an organization working to enact sensible gun laws. I showed up to be a voice and to be physically present in support of this community and all the communities across America plagued by gun violence.

Why is this even an issue though? Furthermore, why is this a contentious partisan issue? Why do responsible gun owners not want FELLOW responsible gun owners? Literally, no one is saying their intention is to strip citizens of their 2nd amendment rights. But, why are there no limitations to those 2nd amendment rights? Should irresponsible gun owners and dangerous people have weapons? No. Do you really disagree and think they should have weapons?? Logically, why would someone advocate for dangerous people to have access to guns anyway?

Most disappointingly is that SO many of my fellow Veterans (Army & Marines alike) who I served with in Iraq and in the States vocalized (rather vehemently) their opposition to the March for Our Lives events that took place GLOBALLY. Why would someone be against this movement which is intended to make our society safer - to prevent our kids getting murdered in school, on streets, in movie theaters, at political rallies and so on? This child-led movement is astoundingly impressive. When you listen to the children speak about gun violence and their experiences, how are you anything but impressed? These are oratorical leaders of their movements. Orators -- do you know what that is? Because I can see how someone may forget that our politicians used to be quote-worthy and orators of the finest degree. People who led movements, who lead this country ... they knew how to use our language to captivate us, inspire us, encourage us, and unite us.

These children are better public speakers than the person occupying the White House and his entire cabinet. These children who have been forever changed by gun violence (RECENTLY!) have managed to put their emotions and passion into words that resonate with people across the globe.

So, what do they want? They want to not be shot in school. They want schools to not be a gun-totting area. They want safety. They want security. They don't want their teachers armed. They don't want their classmates to bring guns on campus and use them. So, why the opposition to March for Our Lives? And, why disagree with them and insist teachers are armed. Teachers and students vocalized immediate opposition to that suggestion that they be armed. LISTEN TO THEM. They are the ones in schools. LISTEN TO THEM.

My older daughter attends Pre-K at a public school here in Florida. I don't want her teacher armed. I don't want to have to continue speaking with my daughter about Active Shooter Drills. I tell her, and oh my god do I mean it when I say, "Baby, you run and you hide and if you have to pee, baby girl, you pee right where you are. You will hear screaming and loud noises. You may see people hurt. You stay hiding. Don't you move or make a sound. You hide and don't come back out until you see Police, your teacher or me. You say there. Be scared, cry as quietly as you can but don't you move. I will find you and make you safe again."

Fuck, that conversation is exhausting. SHE IS FIVE YEARS OLD!

I talk to her constantly about people with guns, angry people who scream, scary things she may see or hear. I don't want to do this but school shootings are normalized in this country. WHY?!!!! Society needs to move the pendulum from gun-supporting to gun-limiting. Try it as an experiment for a few years. See if a dramatic reduction in weapons and a dramatic increase in waiting periods and harsher penalties for irresponsible gun owners changes things. Why not, at a minimum, impose incredible restrictions and limitations to see if our society and our children are safer? Why is this an experiment not worthwhile?

Do I think most people should have guns? No, and hell no! I know that guns in the hands of untrained people are incredibly dangerous. I know that being trained to use a gun doesn't mean someone is equipped for all that it entails. For some reason, people fail at storing weapons safely and so their kids gain access to it and use it on themselves or others (intentionally or because they were playing around with an unsecured loaded weapon like it was a toy). Weapons need to be safely stored and locked away and not loaded with a round in the chamber or a magazine in!!!

Can the person with that gun shoot and hit a target while zero environmental factors play into his ability to hit a non-moving target? Sure. That's pretty damn easy!  But what if the target is moving? What if children are around it? What if the target is shooting back? Is that gun-totting civilian capable of engaging the target safely and effectively without collateral damage? Are they prepared to accidentally kill someone who was near the target or behind the target off in the distance that they didn't see? THIS happens!!! Target practice at a gun range and real life are different. This is why we have trained Soldiers and police forces. They are trained for these environments. And, even with all that training, they often still fail. So some regular gun-toting citizen doesn't really make feel safe knowing they have a gun and are willing to be some renegade hero - because they most likely will not.

Let me transition to speaking about the March for Our Lives rally in Parkland.

I attended the march with two fellow La Leche League moms and one of the mom's 16-year-old daughter. We arrived around 830 in Parkland, Florida. There was a nicely organized drop-off area, people directing us, police ready to search bags, and then I saw the initial layout of the field. The first table I noticed was a "register to vote" table. How fantastic is that! Apparently, you can register to vote at 16 so you'll be ready to go when you turn 18. Okay! That's pretty amazing! So my friend's daughter registered. What a momentous day to say she registered to vote! Personally, I was thrilled with the amount of "register to vote" tables at this event and the fact that everyone promoted it. In fact, most of the people who spoke at the event reminded attendees to vote and encourage their friends to vote. One speaker asked that everyone get 17 friends to vote - 17 being the number of students murdered in Parkland recently.

As I mentioned before, the students who are leading this movement are great speakers. They spoke to a sea of like-mind, supportive fellow Americans and foreigners (I met a few Canadians who came to show their support). I was utterly impressed with their ability to share their stories. There were two parents who also spoke - they both had lost their children in that Valentine's Day massacre. How they managed to get through their speeches is beyond me. I teared up just listening to them. I cannot imagine the pain in their hearts but I admire their determination to unite as one and encourage this movement to go forward. The parents expressed their appreciation and reverence for the students who have risen to the top of this vocal movement. Hearing their support for the students was encouraging and important to hear.

The event culminated in a walk down to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We walked, we cheered, we smiled, we hugged. When we reached the school, my friends wanted to add their signs to the memorial. I didn't. Memorials of flowers and teddy bears and signs are just not my thing. Everyone grieves and honors memory in different ways. This particular way is not my preferred method. So, I crossed the street and hung out with my sign and smiled at the fellow supporters who were walking back to ... well, wherever they parked because the event was officially over.

As I was standing there, my sign continued to draw a bit of attention. People came to take a photo of it. One woman came by, read my sign, and said, "Yeah," to which I responded the same. She then shouted to someone down the street with some kind of sarcastic message about, "Yeah, I know where I live. I'll see you soon."

"You live in this community?" I asked.
"I live right over there," she said while pointing to a home about 300 meters down the street. "My daughter was in the freshman building when it happened. She was there where her friends were killed and shot."
"I have a 5 and a 2-year-old," I said to her as tears built in my eyes.
"Mom to mom, look at this." And she goes on to show me her text messages on her phone - the messages her panicked daughter sent her when gunfire was erupting in her school and people were being killed.

The messages were terrifying. I can't imagine how scared her daughter must have been.
The woman lives nearby so she said she ran toward the school.

The messages suddenly stopped.

For 15 minutes, she didn't know what happened.

Was her daughter killed? Was she injured?

Fifteen minutes elapsed before someone found her daughter.
She had escaped from the school and was hiding in a bush. She was alive. She was uninjured.

"It was the longest 15 minutes of my life," said that mom.

We hugged. And, damn these tears kept filling my eyes. (My eyes are tearing again while writing this). 

It was that last interaction that really affected me. She was lucky. I am lucky. Her daughter will have to work through the fear and pain and PTSD - but, she survived. She survived! 17 others were not as lucky. Surviving and coping are different ... coping takes time and patience. She may never be the same. The mom may never be the same. She may be fearful of the mundane task of saying "goodbye" to her children when they leave for school.

This doesn't have to be the norm.

Parents shouldn't fear their children going to school.
Children and teachers shouldn't fear being in school.

At the end of the day, I was back home and decided to go sit on the beach and reflect quietly about the day. I was exhausted, drained, but so grateful for the ability to share space with so many wonderful people whose mission is to make the country safer.

This is just one step, of course. Showing up matters. Voting matters. Contacting elected officials to vocalize your opinions about laws, ordinances, and such - this absolutely matters. Change is multifaceted. And, it's obvious that there is resistance to change so that means that we cannot back down. We must encourage people to run for office, vote for people who support our positions. We must be engaged citizens.

Children may not be able to vote but their voice matters. And, it's imperative, to listen to young girls like Naomi Wadler (video link below) and Edna (video link below). Black and brown kids deserve greater recognition in this struggle for increased safety.

---

I wrote the second half of this blog on March 25 - the day following March for Our Lives. I can only hope that change does come. I hope that history books written about this movement honor the intentions of it and that we see positive policy changes as a result of it. In years to come, I hope children like Emma Gonzalez run for office. I hope their passion stays intense and they feel accomplished and satisfied with the direction this movement goes.

For the counter-protesters who show up with weapons, I hope they stop threatening their fellow citizens. Peaceful protests are wonderful places for like-minded people to gather and feel recognized and heard. Having armed citizen show up in counter-protest is nothing more than bullies with guns who try to intimidate through perceived violence or actual violence.

I must say that our protest in Parkland was successful and peaceful. I didn't see a single counter-protester. There were SO many police officers and deputies, fire rescue crew, medics and other support people who made sure we were safe.

I am in awe of the logistical coordination from police, firemen, and medical staff. They were there in such great numbers. They were friendly. They smiled. On the way back from the march, I thanked all the ones I came across for simply being there and being a positive presence.

So, to Coral Springs, Parkland, Boca Raton, Broward County ... to whoever showed up yesterday as assigned support & safety staff to the March for Our Lives rally, I thank you. I am glad you were there and I'm glad you were (mostly) not needed with the exception of some of the medics who cared for people who didn't bode well in the heat.  You keep our communities safe and you are appreciated. And, FABULOUS job with free water and Gatorade that was distributed throughout the event. Kudos to the placement of trash and recycle bins that kept the field pretty dang clean. And, kudos to the super huge amount of port-a-potties and the placement of them as well as food trucks. This event was logistically solid. It was well planned out and to anyone who knows about the challenges of large-scale events, YOU ALL ROCKED IT!!!

I hope you all participated in local rallies near you. I hope that fellow moms join Moms Demand Action or Everytown. I hope the students continue. And, I hope that families affected by gun violence find peace and know that there is support and love around them.

Let's keep working toward a better tomorrow. 



Videos from March for Our lives in Parkland & also D.C. 

Coverage of the Parkland March for Our Lives event. 
This is Naomi. Her speech in DC was amazing! 
This is Edna. Listen to her story!! 

And, Jack Johnson's cover of Imagine. 

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