Michael Weissman, a UF finance freshman, graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year. He still has friends in the school, and when the Valentine’s Day shooting started at about 2 p.m., the 18-year-old was in class.
“My phone kept buzzing and buzzing and buzzing. I thought maybe it was just a group. I look down to maybe shut it off, and I just see ‘there’s a shooter at Douglas, there’s a shooter at Douglas.’ This was an actual thing that was happening. This wasn’t an Onion article. I put in my headphones and listened to one clip and then I just walked out of class. I texted everyone I knew: friends, teachers who were club sponsors. I just kept asking people if they were ok. For those that responded, and there were some that didn’t respond that was concerning, there were some that were saying they heard shots. There was some people who heard more than others, there were some people who didn’t know what was happening, people who are hiding.”
For four weekends in a row after the Parkland shooting, Harrison Cohn, a UF finance freshman, drove home to visit his alma mater and be with his grieving community. His brother attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This weekend, he boarded a bus to Washington, D.C. to participate in March For Our Lives.
“I told my brother to stay strong. I told him to be there for his classmates, and they will be there for him. Going back to school where that happened is hard. I know one of my good friends was in the room when the shooting happened. She’s be on edge since it happened. When she goes to the gym, and she hears a loud bang, she has to run out. Luckily, for my brother he didn’t have to see anything. He heard the gunshots. They were loud, and you could hear them from anywhere in the school. I told him to stay strong and go back there. Douglas is a great school. You have to go back and represent us as a community. If everyone goes back, it shows how strong we are.
Jaimie Ivers, a UF public relations sophomore, helped plan the bus trip for UF students after she posted on Facebook student groups to find students interested in going. She said she did it because she wants to support her alma mater Stoneman Douglas.
“Cameron Kasky, one of the Stoneman Douglas students leading the #NeverAgain movement, lives three doors down from me. I was in drama with him and Alex Wind, and now they are on the cover of Time. When all the #NeverAgain kids started, it inspired me to do something here at UF. Details about the shooter and his life made it clear he is not someone who should have a gun. It’s not even just one issue, it’s so many: lack of communication, mental health. There was so many things wrong with the situation, something needed to be done. The result of the march should be a change in our laws, but I think it will take time. It won’t happen all of a sudden, but a march on Washington is part of it. It’s everyone that participates. There’s been people reaching out. There’s an overwhelming amount of people of all ages. The fact that it is happening worldwide is a good thing because I think we need to see how embarrassing that this happens here. I hope America is embarrassed.”
Ricardo Rauseo, a UF political science and international studies senior and student senator, heard about the bus trip and said he needed to go to represent other students.
“I was interested because that high school was 20 minutes away from my home in Weston. I decided this is something I care about and this is a movement I can get behind. This type of peaceful protest doesn’t happen in my home country, Venezuela. I’m going to see how it is in the United States. I went to the Richard Spencer protest last year, so this will be my second protest. The media has framed it has been ‘These high schoolers are kids, they don’t know the law. We are adults; we are the ones that make the law.’ If you are old enough to be a victim of gun violence, then you are old enough to see gun laws change. People say ‘They can’t vote,’ but they are still part of our society, and if that were the case, we wouldn’t have any laws regarding kids at all. No one deserves to go through what they went through.”
As Adam Rachlin, a UF political science and family, youth and community sciences sophomore and Stoneman Douglas alumnus, rides a bus more than 12 hours to march in D.C., he poured over pages of a book about the Second Amendment, highlighting quotes he thought was meaningful, so he can “understand the other side.”
“When it comes to gun reform, it’s something I’ve studied for roughly the past five or six years, even before any of this happened. When the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, where a man shot up a movie theater, happened, it really affected me. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out why this happens, why people have access to these types of guns. I want to march for this because one of the pillars of ‘March For Our Lives’ is a ban an assault weapons. It’s a controversial idea, but I think it’s something that needs to happen. Not only is it apparent that these weapons are only used for mass destruction or mass killings, there is no other use for them. The Second Amendment is a very loose amendment. It’s the shortest of the amendments. Just because something back in the day made sense, it might not make sense anymore, and I think politicians need to see that. Organizations like the National Rifle Association need to stay out of politics. That’s what is making these politicians lean more toward a loose gun reform agenda. Through March For Our Lives, people are showing they don’t want that anymore. They want more gun reform. Ninety-seven percent of the population agrees we should have universal background checks, especially when it comes to gun shows, where you can go and buy a gun really easily. Stuff like that needs to be regulated more. I’m not only marching for the 17 lives, but for any life taken through gun violence. This isn’t just about school shootings, this is about shootings that happen in communities where gun violence is an everyday thing. The outcry for help is very apparent from how many people are going to march. It’s not just people from Parkland, it’s people from every city in the entire county. That’s so important, and it’s so important to be a part of this. That’s why I march.”
Michael Weissman, a UF finance freshman.