Walkout: ‘It could have been us’

In New Jersey, West Windsor-Plainsboro South students walked out in support of the national school walkout against gun violence, listening to speakers on the school’s football field. (Gauri Nema/YJI)

West Windsor, New Jersey, U.S.A. – Minutes before the walkout, everybody’s eyes were on the clocks, wondering who would stay back and who would rally forward.
The only conversations I could hear walking in the hallways and sitting in class just before the student-organized walkout began somewhat like, “Are you going to the walkout today?” or “I’m so happy I get to miss class” or “I might not go to the walkout, it’s really cold.”
The only thing on my mind was the realization of just how massive and united this movement is. Before today, I appreciated and was inspired by the survivors, who are around my age, but as I walked outside my school, I finally realized the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students activists had even welcomed me to join their fight.
As the cold breeze hit my face on my way to my school’s packed football field, it also hit me that while they were persisting in their resolve to see change in gun laws, these Florida students were not going to leave anyone out of it.
Whether someone was against their beliefs, for their beliefs, undecided on this issue or didn’t see a reason to care, the Parkland survivors strived to make an impact on every part of American society.
These thoughts weighed heavy on my heart as I listened to the passionate speeches by the students who organized the walkout at my school.
As the leaders of my school walkout spoke, encouraging us to speak up or vote, I heard not only their sorrow and emotion, but surprisingly also mocking laughs from other students in the background.
I’d been so focused on the sound of the crackling megaphone, it took me a minute to notice their disrespect. But then I felt like a teapot overflowing with boiling water. I was infuriated. I reminded myself to ignore these fools, thinking, “There are always kids who do this.”
The walkout continued and once again, I tried to wholeheartedly absorb myself in the speeches.
One student recited a poem by a student from my high school and again, I heard echoes of jokes carried by the snow cold wind.
And then again – right before the 17 minutes of silence when a student organizer read the names of those massacred in Parkland – as her voice broke on the verge of tears, a few students laughed. It broke the captivating silence of the moment, but I steeled myself and turned my attention back to the reader as she memorialized the dead.
The 17 minutes that followed were, thankfully, completely silent apart from the police helicopter that flew around above us and the gusting breeze.
The walkout over, we headed back toward the school.
“It could have been us.” That’s what the speakers said, what the signs students carried said, and what was on my mind as I walked back to class.
For several minutes, the impact lingered in the air.
Most of my classmates seemed lost in their thoughts, returning more motivated, shaken and inspired.
Gauri Nema is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
Want to read more? Follow this link to discover the voices of YJI students worldwide since the Parkland, Florida mass shooting: After Parkland