by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
A month after the shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, thousands of students across the country left their classes at 10 a.m. to participate in a walk out against gun violence. The walk out, which lasted for 17 minutes in memoriam of the 17 lives lost during the shooting, involved high school students, professionals, and college students, including members of the Providence College community.
Organized by the PC Democrats and co-sponsored by Student Congress, the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Friars Club, PC’s walk out was campaigned as a vigil for the lives lost in Parkland.
Students gathered outside in the cold weather by the newly erected Calabria Plaza on Slavin Lawn and were given a black ribbon to wear in support of the cause.
“I want to show my support,” said Maria Sciancalepore ’20, a student who attended the vigil. “I want to take part in something active on campus that’s moving to make a difference in society.”
Caroline Olsen ’19 echoed Sciancalepore and said, “Gun violence is something that is affecting everyone.” She explained that as terrible as it is to think this way, it is something that could even affect us at PC. “Participating in a walk out like this allows us to bring awareness to the issue.”
Members of the PC Democrats executive board, including Amy Gilligan ’18, Nikki Silva ’19, and Madison Clark ’19, stood on the top of the stairs and addressed the crowd. “We just wanted to thank-you for coming out and showing your support today,” said Clark. “All of you have sacrificed your personal and class time to remember those we have lost and take a stand against gun violence.”
She listed the names of each of the 17 lives that were lost and asked that we pray for them, their families, and pray that something like this massacre never happens again.
Clark explained that when she first heard about the shooting, she felt a mix of emotions including anger, fear, and grief, but for the first time also felt helpless. “After Sandy Hook, I thought things would change. After Pulse, I thought things would change. After Las Vegas, I thought things would change,” she said. “When Parkland happened, I saw a system unwilling to confront gun violence and unable to keep our most vulnerable safe.”
Father James Quigley, O.P., echoed Clarks remarks, and in a prayer asked us to pray for those who were murdered, pray for their families, and pray to give us the strength to call upon our leaders to take action to protect the most vulnerable in our society. “We must pray to promote mutual respect, charity, and justice for all,” he said.
“Thanks to the bravery of students at Parkland, I have hope,” said Clark. “The nation has not moved on, and we have not forgotten.”
She went on to explain that she was glad the community could gather by the torch because it is a symbol of enlightenment and hope. She quoted a passage from Romans 12 that reads, “Never let the fire in your heart go out, keep it alive.” She then explained that by coming together today, the campus is keeping the fire alive.
“It is often said that the nation’s students are the future, but I take greater joy and comfort knowing that the students are also the present,” said Clark. “While we gather today in prayer, we must remember that with prayers must come action.” She went on to say that we must demand that our leaders take meaningful steps to make our world safer, and make a conscious effort to support peace and love.
On the national level, students are expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for March for Our Lives on March 24, which was coordinated by Everytown for Gun Safety. Furthermore, more school walk outs are planned for April 20, the anniversary of the shooting in 1999 at Columbine High School.
“We find strength in each other as a Friar Family and as a national family for students,” said Clark. “The lives of the 17 people lost will not be forgotten because we are working to make a nation worthy of their memory.”