When four Amity Middle School Orange students heard about the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, they became angry and wanted to get the message out that something has to change. “I was fueled by anger,” said eighth grade student Emma Hatjopoulou. “We wanted to ‘walk out’ on the day that other schools were, but we weren’t allowed to. We were asked to pick another way to have our voices heard.”
So, they did. On a sunny Tuesday morning at 10:02 in front of dozens of classmates, Emma, Ali Bower, Jade Krukar and Piper Zschack read statements and honored the victims of the shootings. Students were asked to wear burgundy and silver on April 24th and to sign up for the ‘walk-out’ with their homeroom teachers.
“As many of you know, on February 14th, 2018, there was a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Within only six minutes, 15 virtuous students were injured, 17 innocent lives were lost, and a community was left grieving and shattered,” Emma said to the crowd.
Jade continued, “Today, we have gathered here to remember the victims of the shooting,” and she proceeded to read each name of the 17 victims and share a point or two about their lives. “Nicholas Dworet, age 17, was an avid swimmer with dreams of making it to the 2020 Olympics. Aaron Feis, age 37, was a football coach who used his own body to shield bullets from students. Jamie Guttenberg, age 14, was an intelligent girl who wanted to be a mother and an occupational therapist.”
“We hear stories like the one of Parkland in the news and we often forget that these are the lives of real people we’re talking about. Reading the name of a victim is easy, recognizing that they were a real person with a whole future ahead of them is much harder,” Piper said.
The girls planted 17 flowers around a tree in the school courtyard to serve as individual memorials for the victims of the shooting. “These flowers are not to serve as a grim reminder of the tragedy that has taken place, but as a representation that new life and hope can come about in the aftermath of something terrible,” Piper said. “They also symbolize the power that we as students have. If just a few kids can make a lasting impact on their school, just think what the voices of every student across the country could do.”
Ali continued, “So these flowers not only serve as a memorial, but also as a reminder; everybody has a voice, and it’s up to you how you’ll use it. By simply standing up for what you believe in, you can make more of a change than you know.”
A moment of silence was held for each victim. “We hope this inspires other things to happen. We all say we want to do more – to help people feel like they have a voice and a sense of unity. We wanted to inspire people to make a difference. You’re never too young to do that,” Ali said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent