One year ago today

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One year ago today

(John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP)

(John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP)

(John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP)

(John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP)

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January 1, 2019. Tallahassee, Florida. Five injured.

January 4, 2019. Torrance, California. Three killed, four injured.

January 13, 2019. Phoenix, Arizona. One killed, five injured.

January 19, 2019. Jacksonville, Florida. Three killed, two injured.

January 26, 2019. Gonzalez, Louisiana. Five killed.

February 3, 2019. Palm Springs, California. Four killed.

February 5, 2019. San Antonio, Texas. Two killed, two injured.

February 11, 2019. Livingston, Texas. Five killed.

These are eight examples of the thirty-seven mass shootings that have occurred so far in 2019. This past Monday evening, I was watching Princess Mononoke and awaiting the call for a snow day as five lay gunned down dead from a murder-suicide.

Today marks the one year anniversary of one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history. On February 14, 2018, fourteen students and three faculty members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida became victims of a nation riddled with firearms.

Instead of Valentine’s Day flowers and hearts scattered across social media, the United States was met with headlines of horror. One would think we would be used to mindless massacre, but somehow, Parkland was different.

Students consequently hurled themselves into the sphere of activism as they felt threatened and moved by the shooting, organizing walkouts and marches which millions participated in and which rippled beyond the U.S. to five continents. Yet the slogan of the Parkland student activists, “Never Again,” seems sick when thinking of the hundreds of mass shootings which followed in 2018 and the dozens left slaughtered on school grounds. Seven weeks after a group of students from Santa Fe High School in Texas participated in the March for Our Lives on March 24, ten of their peers became the next victims of gun violence.

There are always arguments against gun control, evaluating the circumstances of each case – the rage, the poor mental health, the violent video games, the accidents. However, there is only one common denominator in this ceaseless violence. This fight is far from over. New representatives in state and federal legislative branches were elected in November who support firearms restrictions and refuse to accept funding from the NRA, however, they are too few and cannot work quickly enough.

Six minutes and twenty seconds. That was all the time it took for Nikolas Cruz to take seventeen lives. For six minutes and twenty seconds today, put yourself in the mind of a Parkland survivor. Think of the PMHS Olympics or middle school musical, a perfect target mass audience for a shooter. Think of the kid who sits next to you in Algebra who skateboards and plays the clarinet lying dead in the hallway. Think of your favorite teacher being shot through the door as you assemble in lockdown position. Think of your mother carrying on with a life without you in it.

One year ago today, seventeen gunshots were heard around the world. One year ago today, we realized any American student could be the next victim of gun violence, and nothing makes us immune. One year ago today, parents embraced students after waiting for hours wondering if they would ever see their child again.

Hold your loved ones close this Valentine’s Day and let them know what they mean to you. Use the day of love to spread compassion which too many may never again share. Let each February 14 stand as a symbol of strength and unity against weapons of destruction and motives of hate in perpetuity.