PICTURED ABOVE: 1. Students involved in planning the memorial distribute orange ribbons, giving members of the Hockaday community a way to express their support for the Parkland victims. 2. Upper school faculty, staff and students gather on Graduation Terrace to stand for 17 minutes of silence to honor the lives lost in the Parkland shooting. Photos by Amelia Brown.
On Feb. 14, a mass shooting took the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Instead of meeting this devastating event with despair, students across the country have seen it as a call to action to spark change.
A team of seven Hockaday students and four faculty members answered this call by organizing a memorial on March 23 to unify the community in honoring the fallen. The program included 17 minutes of silence to remember the 17 lives that were lost.
Before the memorial, orange ribbons were distributed to the community to pin to their clothes, as the color has become a symbol associated with solidarity and support for the Parkland victims. Student Diversity Board Chair Anden Suarez stresses the importance of acknowledging the impact this tragedy had on the victim’s families rather than focusing on political discourse.
“We wanted [the ribbons] to be a simple, small but significant way for us to offer the students to stand with us and stand with the Parkland victims,” Suarez said. “This is a chance for us to put politics aside for a moment and recognize that 17 lives were lost, 17 families will never see their children again.”
The movement started by the Parkland students also touched senior Cheryl Hao, inspiring her to get involved in bringing together the Hockaday community in 17 minutes of silence.
“I was very proud of the Hockaday community but I didn’t expect anything less,” Hao said. “The maturity of our students and their willingness to speak up for what they believe in really resonated with me.”
Suarez, Hao and several other seniors met with administrators to express their belief in the importance of continuing the dialogue from the community conversation. They also outlined five principles to act as a precedent when dealing with future issues: school safety, solidarity, action, education and creation.
“What we wanted from administration when we sat down was support for the student voice,” Suarez said. “We were very pleased to be met with full support. They really did respect what we had to say.”
Another member of this team, senior Maye McPhail felt frustrated with the lack of action after the shooting and saw it as her duty to respond to this tragedy. She hopes that by bringing the Hockaday community together to memorialize the 17 victims, people will feel inspired to continue conservations and take action.
“I want to take away the feeling of powerlessness that comes with these events,” McPhail said. “I really believe in the administration and I really believe in the students but I think we just have to start doing the work to get ourselves where we want to be.”
McPhail recognizes the weight that comes with an event like this but hopes the Hockaday community can find comfort in unity.
“It’s going to be an emotional time and people are going to have an emotional response to it,” McPhail said. “I’m hoping that the sense of unity that comes from us all standing together and us all going through similar things will be cathartic.”
Director of Service Learning Laura Day believes in the power students can have when they stand together to produce change.
“When students have this awesome, unified voice their potential is limitless,” Day said.
The team has also organized a walkout on April 20 to allow students to take action by registering to vote or participating in other measures to produce change. However, before diving into this plan of action Suarez acknowledges the importance of spending 17 minutes in silence.
“[The Parkland Students] were students like us trying to learn and get an education. That was where they were when their lives ended,” Suarez said. “That is something as a community that we have to acknowledge before we dive into our plan of action.”
Story by Amelia Brown, Sports Editor