Teens Respond To School Shooting

Feb 17, 2018
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

After mass shootings, we often hear calls for someone to do something to stop these horrendous events from happening again. In Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died in the high school shootings, a movement seems to be building with young people and students who say, enough. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Kaelan Small stands in a field next to a white cross - one of 17 white crosses posted here. Two of them mark the murder of her close friends, neighbor kids, students in her classes.

First, let me just ask how you're doing.

KAELAN SMALL: It's been hard - I'm not even going to lie - but it's comforting knowing that a bunch of my friends are going through the exact same thing as me.

MANN: She's 16. Her eyes are swollen, and she looks unsteady. She leans a little against her mom. Like a lot of kids here, Kaelan's in shock, but she's also disgusted and angry.

KAELAN: I just think that it's enough. Like, how many lives have to be lost just for them to take control and do something about it?

MANN: The ritual after these mass shootings is often pretty much the same - a lot of prayer, politicians arguing on TV. Even vigils have come to seem sort of horribly commonplace. But this time, it's been different. It's been kids speaking up most powerfully in the media and in public ceremonies.

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JULIA CORDOVER: This is our home. And this is where we will not be intimidated by evil.

MANN: When thousands of people gathered here to mourn the dead this week, it was Julia Cordover - a senior and president of the student body - who sobbed as she read the names of the dead.

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CORDOVER: Meadow Pollack.

MANN: As people wept and as helicopters hovered overhead, Cordover said change has to come. The social media meme these kids launched says, never again and, enough. David Hogg - a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - spoke this week on CNN.

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DAVID HOGG: And some of our policy makers - and some people need to look - they need to look in the mirror and take some action because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas, and children die.

MANN: Grown-ups here have taken notice. During a visit to Parkland yesterday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson - a Democrat - nodded at this new activism.

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BILL NELSON: The kids are just terrific. The fact that they are speaking up as boldly as they are - maybe that's the turning point.

MANN: Nelson said overcoming political resistance to new gun control laws from the NRA and other groups will be hard, but he said pressure from young people could shift a debate that's been stuck since the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.

Katherine Posada teaches English here. She was one of the faculty who listened to bursts of semi-automatic gunfire as she huddled with terrified students. She agrees that maybe it is time for the kids to lead.

KATHERINE POSADA: I think that it's amazing. And if it's going to take the young people of this country to step up, then I am here with them all the way.

MANN: The young people here are realistic. They tell me they understand the politics here in Florida and in Washington, D.C., lean hard against gun control and against big spending increases for mental health services. But standing in that field of white crosses, Kaelan Small says the alternative - more Sandy Hooks, more Parklands - is just too ugly.

KAELAN: I really do hope - I'm praying each day that something is changed - is going to change, but you never know.

MANN: Kids from Parkland will be part of a delegation in the state capital next week calling for more gun control. A national group is also calling for students across the country to walk out of classes on March 14 as part of a protest against school violence. Brian Mann, NPR News, Parkland, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.