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Students unite in wake of tragedy

Photos+by++Alea+Jennings%2C+Alexis+Perno%2C+and+Morgan+Shelton
Photos by  Alea Jennings, Alexis Perno, and Morgan Shelton

Photos by Alea Jennings, Alexis Perno, and Morgan Shelton

Photos by Alea Jennings, Alexis Perno, and Morgan Shelton

Chloe Aikman and Graham Hill, Staff Writers

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Scrawled in chalk across almost every surface, the names of schools impacted by shootings since 2013 covered each square of cement in front of the school, accompanied by small white flowers lying on the grass – symbols of purity, memorial and support. 

“I chose white flowers,” senior and participant Leigh Gabrielly said. “White is a really pure color… and it kind of represents the bipartisanship of this situation. White is a colorless color – there’s no sides that can be chosen. White is just pure, and these kids were pure.” 

Spurred by the recent tragedy in Parkland, where 17 students and teachers lost their lives, a group of students voiced their outrage and frustration with the lack of definitive action through chalk. Phrases such as “Be the change,” “Act now” and “This is a cry for help,” were scattered intermittently along the sidewalk. 

Reactions were similar amongst students and faculty alike.  

“I think people will actually see it,” sophomore Katherine Edgar said. “There’s no way to ignore it when it’s literally glaring at you from the floor, where you’d usually be looking at your feet.” 

A group of 15 seniors, organized by Macie Lavender, Savannah Lowry and Brooke Shapiro, came to the school the night of Feb. 15 at 11 p.m. to leave their overwhelming messages of love, remembrance and pleas for change.  

“I was both moved and impressed that the students here would take on something like this,” English teacher Derek Thomas said. “Rather than kids being sad, or whatnot, they feel almost empowered… they feel that they want to do something.” 

The shooting at Parkland was the eighth school shooting this year, according to CNN and the Florida Guardian. The weapon used was a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle, but instead of attacking gun policy, one of the themes emphasized in the chalk text most was nonviolence. 

“Getting your voice out there is good,” junior Luccas Papa said. “It starts from us, but it’s going to eventually need to be people in government for change.”  

According to members of the group, the crafting of their display took over an hour and a half.  

“This is people honoring people who had tragic events happen to them… it gives you chills,” Principal Johnny Bush said. “We hope that actions like this will get us closer to stopping this type of stuff because it’s nerve-racking.” 

Among the names of schools and demands for action that wrapped the walkways towards the entrance, one area was set aside for the names of all the victims of the Parkland shooting. 

“What really struck me was how close to home it was,” Maggie Musco, senior and participant said. “That’s what made me realize that… something needs to change. Even if it’s just a small thing like this, getting people aware of what’s going on… I needed to do something.” 

Their stance, advocating action in the wake of this disaster, was echoed by others who heard their message.  

“It shows unity within the population and how we need to make strides towards a safer school environment,” freshman Matthew Van Wert said. “[school shootings are] happening too much now; something’s got to change.” 

With over 200 campus names written across the pavement, local newscasters and parents quickly began to show up. One note taped to a sign in front of the school urged viewers not to wash the chalk away – but to remember Parkland and let their voices be heard. 

“We have to make sure that this is not normalized,” social studies teacher Bo Puckett said. “I’m beyond words and beyond seeing things on social media –  I’m beyond the debates on Facebook, I’m ready to see some action. Something needs to be done.” 

Another event has also been organized to honor the victims of school shootings. On Monday Feb. 19, students are encouraged to wear white in remembrance and advocation of the school shooting to represent peace and change. Students will meet in the front of the school at 7:15 a.m. The county PTA has also planned a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa.

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