By Sarah Yamashita
For the first time in 35 years, students at the Morristown-Beard School walked out of class last week.
Approximately 100 people gathered on the quad of the private school in Morris Township on Friday, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting in 1999, to participate in the National Student Walkout calling for tougher gun laws.
They heard from students with personal connections to the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Lily Solomon ‘21 knew Jamie Guttenberg, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.
“She was a 14-year-old freshman, who danced passionately with a big personality. We were in the same bunk during our first year at summer camp. When I first heard that she had passed away, I was in shock. Words couldn’t describe how sad I was. Having a personal connection to this situation made me feel even more passionate about having stricter gun laws.”
Seventeen empty desks were lined up, each with the name of a victim of the Parkland massacre.
Slideshow photos by Sarah Yamashita:
Rachel Stulberger ‘19, read the names of victims, and six minutes and 20 seconds of silence ensued. That was elapsed time of the shooting.
It felt like a lifetime; one could not imagine how long it would feel to be hiding from a shooter during that silence. Some students cried.
After the silence, Stulberger revealed her connection to the Florida tragedy.
“On Feb. 14, my best friend, Jayden, texted my saying that she is hiding in a closet with her friend, but right now she is okay. Someone just like me, and all of us, never thought that her school would be on national television because an active shooter went in and killed 17 people.”
Students said they should never have to receive news like that, nor should they feel afraid to go to school everyday.
“It’s wrong that I have to be more cautious and aware walking across this campus than I am on my 10-mile drive here,” said Blake Kernen ‘18 .
“It’s wrong that I spent six minutes and 20 seconds in silence because 17 kids in Parkland lost their voices forever… It’s wrong that someone as troubled and lost as Nikolas Cruz was able to fall through the cracks of society and nobody did anything.”
Kailyn Williams ‘21 and Deborah Ode ‘21 performed an original song. There also were voter registration forms for those 17 and older, and comment cards so students could offer their insight into the school’s mental health services. The event was student-run, with support from the administration.
Some students expressed outrage at the failure of Congress to reach a consensus on gun control.
“I refuse to die here,” said Jonathan Kay ‘20.
“I refuse to become a martyr for a cause that is so preventable. I refuse to accept inaction and gridlock when I know a consensus can be reached. And that consensus lies not through extremes of giving everyone guns, or taking guns away from everyone, but rather common sense compromises.”
Student Government Association President-Elect James Cunningham ‘19 told the crowd there had been a shooting at the Forest High School walkout in Ocala, Fla, that very morning.
“I remember, a few weeks ago, listening to Emma Gonzalez on the radio as I drove to school,” James said.
“All I could think about was how normal this girl was. She’s a national figure now, speaking in front of millions in Washington— but she also spent her year worrying about getting into college, about SAT scores, about financial aid, and about her AP exams. And this girl got on the radio and was everything that we are: Tired, angry, scared, and powerful…
“We are powerful, more than we know. But if there’s going to be real change, it has to come from all of us. It has to start right now.”
Sarah Yamashita is a senior at Morristown Beard.