One year ago, a gunman opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He killed 17 students and faculty and injured 17 others, making it the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and the 18th school shooting in 2018.

In the weeks following the shooting, students from MSD began to organize. They created #NeverAgainMSD just days afterwards and started mobilizing. If they wanted to see any change be made in the realm of gun violence in the U.S., they knew they had to get political.

#NeverAgainMSD turned into the March for Our Lives. At first, it was just a march, an idea. Then, it turned into reality, and, eventually, a movement. An estimated 800,000 people attended the March, and that was just in Washington, D.C. There were approximately 846 sibling marches held worldwide. It was among the largest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War Era.

The March for Our Lives wasn’t the end of the change-making from the MSD students, though. They turned “March for Our Lives” into a movement across the U.S. They included all different forms of gun violence in the conversation they started, not just school shootings. They acknowledge that they need to use the voice they’ve been given through their own tragedy to lift the voices of those who suffer from gun violence and aren’t given the spotlight they were.

They joined forces with other survivors of gun violence, whether that violence is mass shootings, suicides, domestic violence, or violence on the streets. They went on a tour of the places in the U.S. where the NRA has a stronghold and where gun violence is rampant. They opened up a whole new conversation surrounding gun violence in the U.S.— a conversation that has lasted the past year.

The March for Our Lives group contributed to the record youth voter turnout for a midterm election in the 2018 midterm elections. More NRA-backed candidates lost their elections than ever before, particularly in the House. 88 out of 129 gun-sense candidates won their races, making for a gun-sense majority in the House.

Courtesy of March for Our Lives
Courtesy of March for Our Lives

Aside from all of the technical accomplishments of the March for Our Lives organizers, the biggest thing that has come out of the past year is the fire that has been sparked in the youth of the United States. I know that for me, what the Parkland kids have done in the aftermath of this tragedy made me finally do something. They helped me find my voice in this fight, and the same can be said for students across the nation. The Parkland kids took something horrific that happened to them and made it into a positive movement that has sparked more change than our generation has ever seen. I wish I could thank them all personally, but I know that I can’t.

So, I’ll leave you with this: young people can change the world. The Parkland kids have shown us that and made us all believe in ourselves.

The past year has been full of political discourse about what happened in Parkland and the conversation surrounding gun control in the U.S. Today, on the one year anniversary of the shooting, we need to pause that discourse and conversation. Leave the victims of this tragedy alone for a day to grieve and heal. They deserve it.

Photo: Jonathan Ernest/Business Insider

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