March 14, 2018 marked the one-month anniversary of the tragedy that struck Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the families of the 17 victims. To honor the beloved Eagles, MSD participated in the National Walkout Day by walking to the football field for 17 minutes.
On the field, nearly the entire student body participated by congregating in the Cumber Stadium, utilizing the bleachers along with the inner field itself. Parents, Westglades Middle School students and media crews observed from the perimeters of the field beyond the enclosed fences.
In the 17 minutes outside, Principal Ty Thompson spoke to the thousands of students and teachers, with students creating a circle around him. He spoke of how he was proud of students invoking change in the community, the state and the nation.
After Thompson’s speech, MSD Drama Club’s song “Shine” played through the speakers while students stood in a circle, hugging, crying and remembering the tragedy that occurred on Valentine’s Day.
Thompson called all students for one giant group hug at the end of the song, physically uniting MSD students and teachers.
After the 17 minutes on the field passed, students were instructed to go back to class. However, hundreds of students left through the front gates of the school to take the national walkout further to Pine Trails Park, which is approximately 1.3 miles away.
“For 17 people that died, we didn’t feel like the football field was enough. We didn’t do the 17 minutes of silence,” sophomore Valeria Hernandez said. “If multiple schools like Boca Raton can walk all the way to our school, I feel like we can do what is necessary and walk to Pine Trails.”
Police officers blocked Holmberg Road and directed traffic around the perimeters of the school in order to ensure the safety of the students who peacefully protested for common-sense gun laws. MSD students were met by Westglades students who also decided to walkout, along with parents and media, ready to pull students aside to interview and make coverage for the world to see.
“There’s change coming,” senior David Hogg said. “Is it going to be easy? No. Is anything that’s worth having easy? No. Do we care? No. All we care about are these children’s lives. We don’t care if you’re Democrat; we don’t care if you’re Republican. We just want to save lives and speak up for those 17 individuals because they no longer can.”
At the park, survivors from the freshman building and outspoken Westglades students gave speeches to the crowd among others, thanking and encouraging students and families near and far for their courage over the past month, as well as supporting the efforts made so far for changes in legislation. One of the speakers was junior Hayley Siegel, who had relationships with several of the 17 victims.
“We’re one big community, and we’re making a movement. We need to make a change because if we don’t come out here and do these marches, there’s no change that’s going to be made,” Siegel said.
Although Westglades students were told to return back to classes, many lingered to hear the speeches of survivors and activists. Streams of students continued to fill the front of the Pine Trails Park Amphitheater.
“I just wanted to pay respects to the 17 souls lost on Valentine’s Day,” sixth grader Christian Pappas said.
As students walked back to their destinations, whether it be home or school, the world’s eyes were on the National Walkout Day, with #NationalWalkoutDay trending at the top of Twitter, and celebrities such as Chris Evans and Miley Cyrus using their platforms to support MSD students and schools across the nation.