They were a wrestler. A coach. A member of the marching band.
A few had recently received the treasured acceptance letters from colleges.
But now they are all dead, among the 17 students and teachers gunned down a month ago at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
And though the victims cannot be brought back to life, students at San Marino High School on Wednesday morning invoked their memory for just one more minute during a powerful tribute that was held in conjunction with the National School Walkout.
It would be difficult, maybe even impossible, to find a single student or faculty member who did not attend the stirring event that was held in the school’s quad during the nationally prescribed time of 10:00 a.m. And when what was intended to be a 17-minute memorial to the 17 victims ran a few minutes past its scheduled closing time, nobody, including administrators, seemed to mind at all, so respectful, solemn, and appropriate was the atmosphere.
Seventeen student volunteers read the name and a short bio of each victim, after which, Ian Han, a senior, made a single strike of a chime, which dramatically pierced the crisp morning air. At times it was difficult to believe that 1,100 teenagers could be that silent for that long.
A surprisingly large number of the students and staff members were dressed in orange—the color associated with gun violence prevention—or the silver and maroon colors of Stoneman Douglas High School.
Seniors Sofia Miera, Hannah Charity and Dahlys Ang crafted a thoughtful tribute that was aimed at remembering the victims of this latest campus shooting while calling for lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws. To that end, the student leaders invited Congresswoman Judy Chu and California State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, each of whom sent representatives to the ceremony.
Maile Plan, a representative of Chu, mentioned the Congresswoman’s work on several pieces of anti-gun legislation while Yvette Kim, representing Portantino, espoused her boss’s support of campus and student safety. Plan even read the name and bio of one of the victims.
“We were not expecting anywhere near that many people,” said Ang immediately after the ceremony as students returned to their classrooms. “It was great that everyone came out and we are really happy with how it went.”
Charity said that the leaders researched online articles covering the tragedy and assigned a different victim to each volunteer, allowing for a more personal tribute for each victim.
“I thought it went really well,” Charity said. “It went very smoothly and I think we sent a pretty powerful message. I hope that students will continue to spread the message that we need better gun control and more safe campuses.”
“From this walkout, the continued conversations, and support for this movement, we hope to see change enacted through legislation that will provide campuses across the country with a safe place for students, faculty, and administration to attend,” Miera said. “I was very, very happy with the turnout and that so many people attended. It was much more than I had expected. Also, everyone was very respectful. I feel like that is what we really needed.”
During Wednesday’s lunch period, students were invited into a classroom to sign letters to Chu and other members of Congress. One letter already had 60 signatures, according to Ang. The trio also said they have “established a connection” with the representatives.
The event was held at the same time as what organizers claimed to be more than 2,500 such protests nationwide. Dubbed “National School Walkout” and carrying the hashtag #ENOUGH, the action originated with EMPOWER, which is a youth arm of the Women’s March. Organizers planned the event to take place at 10:00 a.m. no matter where the school is located across the nation. At SMHS, the memorial ceremony happened to coincide with a daily snack break, meaning that students taking part in the event were scheduled to miss only seven minutes of instructional time when they eventually arrived to their third period classes.
Unlike many others in the nation, San Marino’s wasn’t technically a walkout as students and faculty members simply spent a little more time in an area in which they seem exceedingly comfortable.
But what began in silence ended with a challenge.
“In memory of the seventeen who were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School, we challenge you to say something positive to 14 students and three adults when you leave here today,” Ang said at the close of the event.
Students at San Marino High School were not penalized for attending the service.
Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the Stoneman Douglas shooting and is being held without bond.