Michelle Martin

Choose life, choose hope

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Look for the helpers. That was the advice of Mr. Rogers: In times of tragedy or disaster, when things are scary, look for the helpers. 

In the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, helpers and heroes were not hard to find. Three faculty and staff members were among the 17 dead, killed protecting students: assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis, geography teacher Scott Beigel and athletic director Chris Hixon.

Five years ago, six faculty and staff members were among the 26 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut: principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, behavioral therapist Rachel D’Avino and substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau.

All of them were helpers, long before they gave their lives trying to protect the children in their care. 

The example they gave, and the example of the teachers and janitors and other staff who directed students to safety, who survived after pulling students into their rooms and locking the doors behind them, was followed by other students: teenagers like Peter Wang, 15, who was killed helping his classmates find shelter from the bullets, and Anthony Borges, also 15, who survived after being shot four times. Other students said Borges put himself in the line of fire by holding a classroom door open for them, and then trying to lock it as the gunman approached.

Now the remaining students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are devastated and frightened, as the students and families of Sandy Hook were. 

But more than that, they are filled with anger, anger at all the adults who failed them. It’s not as though school shootings are unexpected in the United States; the shooting in Parkland was the seventh time someone used a gun to attack people on the grounds of a school during school hours in 2018, on the 45th day of the year. 

The students have had enough with the argument that guns don’t kill people, people do, because they have seen the effect that a person bent on violence who is armed with a powerful gun can have. Maybe a person without a gun can kill people, but a person with an assault-style semi-automatic rifle and plenty of ammunition can surely kill a lot more people, a lot faster.

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School senior Emma Gonzalez called out politicians for refusing to enact gun control measures at a Feb. 17 rally.

“To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you,” Gonzalez said. “If your money was as threatened as us, would your first thought be, how is this going to reflect on my campaign? Which should I choose? Or would you choose us, and if you answered us, will you act like it for once?”

Those students and their anger give me hope. After Sandy Hook, I thought that if the massacre of first-graders was not enough to convince Congress to act on gun control, nothing would be. But the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are not giving up, and neither should we.

Thoughts and prayers are good and necessary, but so is action. And the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — and their peers all across this country — are watching.


  • gun violence