The horrific, violent actions of a heavily armed 19-year-old who opened fire on a South Florida high school campus killing 17 people and wounded 14 more set off an apparently unstoppable outcry across the country under the now infamous motto: “Enough is enough.” By no means immune to the aftermath of the events on Feb.14, Johnson County High School students joined the thousands of voices to show their support for the victims and their families. Spearheaded by 15-year-old Rebecca Nowak, students organized “17 Strong” and held a memorial ceremony honoring the victims by each student reading a monolog credited to each of the 17 shooting victims.
“We have realized that we had to get involved and something had to be done,” Nowak said following the emotionally charged event. “People don’t think about the importance of what happened if we don’t highlight it or talk about it. Nowak emphasized that 17 Strong is an awareness effort and that the families of those who lost loved ones would be assured of Johnson County High School’s unwavering support. Of course, last month’s tragic events at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in an affluent suburb northwest of Fort Lauderdale, has drawn attention to the personal safety of the more than 55 million students currently enrolled in public and private elementary and secondary schools in the U.S.
“I think we are safe here at Johnson County High,” said Lauren Buff, 17, adding that teachers, fellow students, and school administration care very much about the safety of the entire student body. While a fellow student, Tea Greer, 16, agreed and emphasized that the administration is very supportive of the awareness effort she added, “We want more safety at our school.” After firing several rounds, the shooting suspect, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who is now charged with 17-counts of premeditated murder reportedly dropped his weapon and hid among the crowd as authorities evacuated students and faculty members.
Officials said that following an hour-long manhunt Cruz was captured in Coral Springs, located about a mile away from the school. Cruz was taken to a local hospital and then released into police custody. The events led to a variety of drastic measures nationwide. Some of the changes and subsequent events that followed included the Florida legislature’s push to arm teachers, while Walmart decided to increase the minimum age to buy firearms to 21.
President Trump’s unscripted gun control meeting with lawmakers added to the mix not to mention high school students across the country assisted in organize the national walkout scheduled on March 14 believing that America is finally ready for a change. JC High also organized a walkout now scheduled for March 14, but according to students, the effort is fully supported by the school administration.
“The walkout is not a protest but a way to raise awareness of school safety and to show our support for the families of those that have lost their loved ones,” said Lauren Wright, 17. “I feel like inspiration is very important right now. Johnson County High School consoler Cassidy Burks added that the administration-approved walkout serves an essential purpose as it “gives students a sense of ownership and that the school is truly a part of their community.”
Perhaps the collective comments of the students attending the “17 strong” ceremony put things in perspective while drawing attention to the need for unity, and mutual respect both in and out of campus when they said, “It could have happened to any of us. The students at Stoneman Douglas High felt safe until it happened to them.”