March For Our Lives, Pittsburgh, PA
February 14, 2018 was supposed to be a lighthearted day filled with love, hearts, and candy; it was anything but. That day as you know, a 19 year old young man walked into Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire. He killed 14 students and 3 staff members, injured 14 others, and traumatized those who were there and us who now may live in fear.
This was my wake up call! Admittedly, it's 5 years late and should have come following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Somehow then, I allowed myself to think it wouldn't happen again. I think my denial was just a way to quell my fear and anxiety. On February 14th, Ella returned home from school and I saw the sadness in her heart, the fear in her eyes, and the utter bafflement in her mind. "Why do lawmakers allow people, even kids, to have access to military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines," she logically wondered? All I could say was, "it's just the way its been." That answer was unacceptable and I can no longer do nothing AND be the good mother I try to be (or the good citizen for that matter). How can any of us allow children to go to school fearing they may not return home because their instruction was interrupted by an unbridled shooter? I promised Ella on this very day that I would ACT and do my best to change this. I don't expect it will happen fast, but I'm going to stick with it! ...
This is really THE civil rights issue of the time and is too important to sit idly by hoping others will solve the problem. Too many people lose their lives to gun violence. Not just school shootings but suicides, unintentional shootings in the home, domestic violence, etc. I try to DO something several times a week to promote change and keep my promise to Ella. I've signed at least 20 petitions, researched which politicians take money from the NRA, boycotted companies that maintain ties to the NRA (my biggest sacrifice to date is not using Amazon because they are unwilling to end their relationship with the NRA by airing NRA.tv etc.), supported businesses like Dick's Sporting Goods who is making changes that the government won't, and have tried to educate my friends and family with emails, social media posts, and conversation. In addition, I have become a member of Moms Demand Action, a national organization with local chapters, to fight for common sense gun reform to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our country. They are NOT against the 2nd Amendment and do not seek to rid our nation of guns but seek common sense limits to such rights. They don't merely react to the headlines but, instead work tirelessly to take guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders, the mentally ill, youth, etc. They have been vigilant in states where there are open carry laws as well. They are really making real progress and I'm anxious to become more involved. Perhaps my greatest pro-reform deed came on March 14th when I drove Ella'a getaway car so that she and friends could participate in National Walkout Day downtown. The only thing better than doing something yourself is to inspire, encourage, and help someone else to do something!
When I learned that students were leading a march on Washington, D.C. - March For Our Lives - on March 24th, my heart sank a bit as I'd be in Pittsburgh with Sarah for an Admitted Students Day. How could I not be in D.C.? How could I not be at Pitt with Sarah? How could I not demonstrate with Ella? After refreshing the official website over and over, I saw that Pittsburgh would host a sister march that Sarah and I could participate in! Phew! Sarah and I were now taken care of and it was just settling Ella in somewhere. John was eager to support Ella and to join the group who marched in January for the Women's March. He was going to be in for a real treat! John tends to be a bit to the right of the girls and I on issues - particularly on gun control. We all started 'working on him' at family dinners to consider a new position. If anyone could get him to see things differently, it would be Ella on the 24th!! She does not disappoint!
Sarah and I marched in the City square in Pittsburgh with another Pitt mother/daughter duo. It was well attended and better programmed than we thought. Spoiled by living so close to D.C., we tend to be a bit snobby when it comes to our idea of what a good demonstration should be. Being in a smaller venue than D.C. took nothing away from our experience. In fact, it may have added to it as we felt we were experiencing something more grassroots and common here. It wasn't set for the politicians and professionals in Washington, it was for the people - 'average' people. It was very representative of America we believed. Sharing this experience with Sarah as she gets ready to start college was very emotional. It was made even better seeing her engage with new friends. This is what I want for her and her future aspirations! Sarah and her friend also managed to get the attention of Conor Lamb who attended the march. Lamb, who is not particularly favorable to gun control, shocked the nation when he flipped a Republican seat in Congress in a special election in Western PA. Though now a 'famous' Democrat, he had a lot to learn from this group and with Sarah and Camryn in his ear, let's hope he sees the light!
My Takeaways: (1) Don't wait for someone else to do what you should do yourself. I wish that after Sandy Hook I was as angry as I was following Parkland, not just sad. Unfortunately, mad often yields action more than sad! Though I woke up late, I'm here now and there is much to do! My kids need change and who better than their mother to try? (2) There's talking about issues and then there is DOING something! Oftentimes we convince ourselves that our leaders don't read our emails or that boycotting doesn't work so we don't do anything. The NRA and other gun advocates have been using their voice and pocketbooks to influence lawmakers for years and we can too - we must! (3) Where there is a will, there is a way. I couldn't be in D.C., but I didn't have to miss out on the big day! (4) Just because something hasn't worked in the past, doesn't mean it can't work now. Don't talk yourself out of acting because you "think" you know the outcome. And remember, these things take time, so be in it for the long haul! At the Mom's Demand Action meeting I attended, Rep. Jamie Raskin said, "If everything looks hopeless, YOU are the hope!" Let's do this!! We are the hope!