14 February 2019, New York City, USA
I’m also wearing today the shoes that I was wearing on Valentine’s Day last year.
I painstakingly painted them for hours the night before because I thought they looked too dark, and too worn out.
I thought that if I found the right colour then I can make them look fresh and clean, then I had to go to a funeral a couple of days later and I didn’t have any shoes appropriate for the occasion.
Valentine’s Day is a day of love and chocolate and consumerism, and pink and red stuff.
Growing up I never cared about Valentines Day, it was just another holiday on the cycle of the calendar. The one that comes after New Year’s, and before the Fourth of July, and now pretty much everyone in our community hates those three holidays, and you’d think that in a town ravaged by the after affects of a mass shooting people wouldn’t shoot off fireworks in the week of Fourth of July or New Years, but they do.
A lot of people either don’t know about or forget about the trauma of gun violence, and that it doesn’t only resurface on the anniversary of the event. Every day, I feel the same. Every day, my friends feel the same. Every day, it feels like the shooting is happening again or happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow. …Some days are better than others of course, but every time there is another mass shooting somewhere else, or any instance of gun violence anywhere, I hug my roommate a little tighter when I see her.
And going to class sounds like a joke.
I don’t even go to Douglas anymore, I’m at college.
Think about the kids who have to go to classes every single day. Classes that they know that their friends would have taken with them. And they have to go to school each day and look at the building where their friends were murdered because it’s still there.
The people who are affected by everyday gun violence are impacted just like the Douglas community has been, and it’s important to remember that.
People who are impacted by everyday gun violence have to walk by the street corner where their best friend, their brother, their mother, their nephew or they themselves were shot. And they’re expected just like we are to go to school, to totter along like a good little student, get good grades and help take care of the family. And life goes on and on as if we haven’t just watched a loved one die and get put in the grave.
That trauma, once inflicted, doesn’t leave.
It most certainly can be treated, but it doesn’t go away on its own.
For me and most of my friend, we fight our trauma by fighting against gun violence and the system that perpetrates it.
Because the fact is around 100 people each day die by the hand of a gun and hundreds more are injured.
And it only hurts us more and more and pushes us into a dark place. I like to think of the Sunken Place from Get Out.
The whole point of what I’m trying to say here is that gun violence isn’t just going to stop until there is a force fighting harder against it.
I said before that trauma doesn’t go away, but I say now the source of that trauma can and will go away with our help.
Until one of us, or all of us stand up and say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit by and watch the news treat these shootings like acts of God. Gun violence is preventable and I’m going to do something to prevent it.’.
Until that happens, nothing will change.
And through that fight we are going to work side by side with organization like ‘Change the Ref’, and with people that we love, to honour the people we’ve lost, and the people who’ve battled long and hard to stay with us.
Our fight is with that which brought us here, gun violence, as well as the organisatons that financially profit off of it, like the NRA.
We’ve not forgotten what, or should I say who, brought us to the centre of the country’s attention, and we never will. We live with the trauma that comes from such a violent act, but we also live with the memories and photos of those who should be with us today. And we further their existence by sharing those stories.
And with that I’d like to wrap up with a couple of stories about Carmen Schentrup.
We rode the bus together. And we had a class together as juniors. And we also did our projects in that class together. We had to a video for one of those projects, talking about how to properly research something, and whatever it was, we made it look like a cooking show. And Carmen brought in a floppy hat and used a really bad Sothern accent, and her part was supposed to talk about something like [miming food prep) ‘you put the research, in the paper’ and she had something like a container of gravy, and put in on a biscuit. But the gravy was really cold and congealed, and when she turned it over it just fell onto the biscuit! [laughs]
I still have that video. It’s on some file on my old computer.
She made the a capella club at Douglas, and she had a story for me every day about another interaction with administration at school, and how it was all so frustrating and taking forever, and it was actually like halfway through the year in junior year that the club got instigated, because it took so long.
She also loved Sherlock and Gotham and the show Community. She loved Community s much that when we had to write a 5000-word research paper on the topic of our choice, she researched the question, ‘Can People on the Autism Spectrum Benefit From an Understanding of Emotions By Identifying Them With TV Shows or Movies As Exemplified By One of the Characters in the Show Community.’
And she ended up proving this thesis wrong.
But it was really cool. It was a fun loophole that she managed to find for herself, watching one of her favourite TV shows for homework.
The world was a wonderful place with her in it, and it sucks that she’s not here anymore. But her family is still here. And so are the memories of her. And that makes everything a little brighter. Thank you.
Emma Gonzalez was speaking at a Change the Ref event. Change the Ref was founded by the parents of Joaquin Oliver who was murdered in the Parkland shooting. Donate here.