Students pray for victims, hope to end gun violence

by Shannon Mcsweeney & Lily Watkins

Standing in unity Marian girls hold 17 orange balloons representing the 17 lives lost on Feb. 14 in
Parkland, Fla. The balloons were hung around the staircases of Marian to keep the victims in the students’ thoughts throughout the day.

The massacre that took place on Feb. 14, at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., shook the nation. Seventeen people died in the shooting and 14 were injured. The gunman was a 19-year-old former student who used an AR-15 during the crime. Parkland became another statistic for school shootings, and the student survivors vowed to make their school, and all other schools, safe from gun violence.

Instead of quietly mourning for their classmates and letting the tragedy be slowly forgotten, they have risen up and started a movement. Many people were tired of the lack of action from politicians and the ease with which it is possible to obtain a firearm. This passion made the spirits of many burn brighter, and protests against gun violence were quickly planned.

Freshman Jackline Paul was one of the many students who participated in the Marian walkout and prayer service demonstration on March 14. The group that walked out met with the Servants of Mary by the statue of Mary in front of the school and was led in a prayer by Sr. Jackie Ryan. Then, several students came forward to identify and describe victims of the shooting. Other students then came forward while holding orange balloons, each balloon representing one of the 17 lives lost in Parkland. The community was then led in another moment of silence for the victims before the service was concluded.

Paul read the brief biography on Alex Schachter, who was a victim in the Parkland shooting. When Paul first learned all the statistics and information concerning the shooting, the fact that this had become a common occurrence struck her heavily.

“I shouldn’t have to be going to school thinking that we will be next or that a friend or classmate won’t be there with me in the next week, or especially that there will even be a next one to hit the news,” Paul said.

Paul was far from the only Marian student to participate in the service. Senior Diana Elizalde organized the event, and created the core team consisting of herself, fellow seniors Sofy Herrera and Donna Yang and juniors Jolie Peal and Corinne Johnson. When she saw the number of Marian girls who participated in the walkout, Elizalde’s heart was warmed.

“I got kind of emotional. I didn’t cry, but my heart grew, and I was fine throughout it. But then it hit me at the end,” Elizalde said. She was nervous about the reactions of both students and parents, but was pleased with the kind reaction of the Marian community.

“It’s just kind of scary putting yourself out there, but everyone was respectful and listening and everything, and I think that really helped how it carried out and how it turned out. So I was very happy,” Elizalde said.

Marian Principal Susie Sullivan attended the service herself. “I was so proud of our students, not only those who participated in the prayer service, but those who stayed inside. The leaders were so clear in their communication that this was not a divisive issue. We are an example that the rest of society should follow. The best solutions come from talking and compromise. Our students showed all of Omaha how this can be done,” Sullivan said.

The March 14 service was the first action for many Marian girls in voicing their prayer for an end to gun violence in schools. Though it may have been the first, it may also not be the last; another national event is planned for Saturday, March 24. Whether or not a Marian student participated in the walkout, she can rest assured that her voice was heard.

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The Network is the student newspaper of Marian High School, Nebraska's only Class A College-Preparatory School for young women.

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