Around 40 students gathered on the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall to honor the victims of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14. The Never Again Club, led by Jessica Scott ’20 and Cameron Kang ’21, hosted a vigil in remembrance of the tragedy that occurred two years earlier.
Attendees of the vigil observed seventeen minutes of silence, each minute representing one life lost at the Parkland shooting. Henry Crater ’20 and Kang delivered opening and closing speeches that reminded students of the importance of standing up and honoring victims. As a Parkland resident herself, Kang became emotional during the vigil and while speaking to the crowd. In an email to The Phillipian, Kang described how the visceral act of remembering her personal relationships with those affected induced an emotional response.
“I had practiced reading the personal statement a few times in my room and each time, I got choked up. I cried while reading it during the vigil and had to hand it off for my friend to finish. People think that Valentine’s Day is the only reminder I have of the tragedy, but I think about it every day. Two years have passed since the shooting and I’m still usually in shock. I feel like the shooting isn’t my story to tell and that it happened to someone else. I think being able to cry and be openly emotional about the situation was a big step for me in realizing and accepting that the Parkland Shooting did happen and it happened to my friends. The vigil was beautiful and powerful and could not have gone better,” wrote Kang.
Attendees at the event felt that the vigil provided a way to support those deeply affected by the tragedy while also promoting awareness of the work that must be done to expand gun safety. Teddy Wilkin ’20, described his views regarding the vigil and the importance of preserving these types of events.
“I think that try as we might, I’m not sure we could ever really do justice for those victims. But I think that in remembering them… it’s hard to say that they live on, but, in remembering them, we remember the cause that we strive towards. The ideal of our society being safe, or safer so that that kind of tragedy never happens again,” said Wilkin.
Crater, a board member of Never Again, expressed similar sentiments. To him, the memorial did not aim to amass a large turnout or reintroduce discourse about gun legislation, but simply allowed attendees to be present and aware of the tragedy.
“I think remembering and just taking time to just sit with some of the harrowing things that happen in society and just kind of sit in silence with them is really powerful… I said this to my fellow board members before the vigil happened, ‘Guys, it doesn’t matter if people actually show up for this. And even if it’s just four of us, it’s just the fact that we’re here and we’re standing here for 17 minutes. That’s what matters,’” said Crater.
After the 2018 shooting, student activists from Parkland articulated the importance of dialogue concerning gun safety. Emma Gonzales and David Hogg, along with other Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, founded the March for our Lives and pioneered the #neveragain movement. The Never Again Club, founded in 2018 after the March for Our Lives, similarly discusses gun legislation and hopes to honor all those affected by shootings across the United States. Scott explained the importance of continuing to fight for change and using social media to prevent the cultural and political movement from becoming ephemeral.
“This is always something hard, because you don’t want people to have to get really into gun violence and advocating for victims, because in an ideal world that wouldn’t be a thing. But since that’s just not reality, we definitely need to just remember it’s not just a trend that went around Instagram for a year. It’s 17 people’s lives, students and faculty. [There are] so many, so many cases—each year, 80,000 people are killed by gun violence,” said Scott.
She continued, “I think a way that we can kind of get people talking about it again… [is through] social media, even if people are just following a trend, if they see their friends post something on their story and then they repost it, it might be superficial at first, but after a while, after you see stories and messages all over social media, you’ll look into it and you’ll start caring.”