Photos By Delia Walz
It was difficult to be a teenager, who couldn’t vote, during the 2016 election. The election, and the events that transpired afterward, thrust my generation into politics. We are the generation that grew up in the wake of 9/11. We are the generation that grew up during the Great Recession. We are the generation that grew up with mass shootings as the norm.
I have grown up with lockdown drills in my school, and though I’m used to them, each one shakes me to the core. One day when I was a freshman, there was an unannounced lockdown at my town’s middle school, where my brother was a student. It took an hour for police to declare that the alarm was triggered accidentally. During that hour, all I could think of was whether my little brother would become another statistic, another victim mourned until the news cameras moved on to the next tragedy. Our town was fine, the lockdown was an accident, but before the police declared it a false alarm, we weren’t so different from the countless towns that have experienced school shootings. In that time, we didn’t know if our family and friends were actually alright.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting, I could feel that the response to it was different: not being able to vote, we had to find other ways to get our voices heard.
In a few weeks, students all over the country planned protests, walkouts, rallies, voter registration drives, and marches. In Croton, a group of students organized a bus to take people to the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC on March 24. Over forty students from my high school traveled in the early morning to Washington, DC, armed with posters, chants, and knowledge. We blended together with the hundreds of thousands of fellow marchers, including students who have also feared that their school would be next and parents who hug their children every morning before school, hoping that they will come home safely. This march was empowering because it gave us a way forward. Each speaker emphasized the importance of voting in midterm elections, especially for young people (who usually have low turnout numbers). This march has empowered the students in my school, and students across the country, to get involved in politics, contact politicians, protest, and educate ourselves.
On the bus ride home, we whispered to each other, asking if maybe this time was really different. Our consensus can be summed up with a quote said at the march by Delaney Tarr, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas: “We know what we want, we know how to get it, and we are not waiting any longer.”
My generation is cautious and extremely skeptical of the establishment’s willingness to change. But we have faith in a brighter future, and we’re prepared to fight for it, no matter how long it takes.