“You never really think it could happen,” said the young girl. She’s in town for the march, the, “March For our Lives” in Washington D.C on March 24th.
I saw her wearing an MSD Strong shirt and asked if I could a grab a few words.
Alongside her friend, she stands stoic as I pull out my camera.
“We live in Broward County” she says.
Her friend explains, “Douglas was like five minutes from our school”.
“Parkland is known to be one of the safest cities in Coral Springs and in Florida”, her friend nods gravely. “The fact that it happened here and that it was so many students, it’s tragic; It, it hit home”.
They did not come to the protest because of politics, because of a fancy agenda or an engraved doctrine. These kids came for friends, for neighbors. For a school that they drive past. They traveled to the March because their community was stained by pain. And, refusing to let that pain hold them down, they chose to let it pull them together.
The magnet’s drawing point: Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., proved fairly historic.
I did not get to attend the march. I was cruising down the Potomac River with 46 of my classmates: All on a school trip, on our way to witness a less recent side of history: George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.
When I did show up, hours later, searching for a protest, I found something almost twice as valuable.
I found stories.
The stories and faces representing 800,000 individuals, who cared deeply enough about an issue, and about each other, to gather there that day: March 24th.
There was an underlying tone I noticed. A tone that I felt politics always seemed to lack: that of unity, and of vulnerability.
The woman I am speaking to stands, hair white as snow, with a striking sincerity and depth to her voice.
“I have not been a gun activist” she says. “I found myself in a hotel this morning close to where everything was happening, and I said, ‘I gotta go. Here I am!’”
It’s at this moment things take turn. “It gives me goosebumps” she says, laughing with a hint of a tear. “The kids, who were there are all totally inspiring, but, a lot of people my age are there as well, remembering when we were fighting for things too.”
Several protesters touched on this idea, an inter-generational support, the youth, leading the movement.
That same day, my junior class had a devotional at night, and the subject: pain.
“Pain unites us,” I said. “In the midst of the anger, the frustration and chaos, pain brings people together”
At the march, with generations from all over coming together under a common cause. And in our hotel lobby with classmates crying and the holy spirit moving-pain unites us.
And after seeing it all day long, in the faces of the protestors I interviewed, the neighbors of the school, the elderly woman, and the passersby, it was the one thing that night, when asked to speak, I knew God wanted me to share.
And so I spoke, as Chaplain of my junior class, about how pain has touched me in the past year and what I believe God is doing through it not only in my life but in each of my classmates as well.
Because, the truth is, hurt is the ultimate equalizer. We all have felt it, each person reading this, each person living. But the story doesn’t end there, with hurt and pain.
Not finished as bullets ring through a school, not finished as students cry with one another. The stories march on, and with it, hope. Hope lined like the masses on Pennsylvania Avenue on March 24th. Hope I believe in, hope that will carry us through