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Praying With Our Feet at the March for Our Lives

Praying With Our Feet at the March for Our Lives

Ashley Schlaeger and a peer at the March for Our Lives

Six minutes, and twenty seconds was the time it took for the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to take the lives of 17 innocent people. According to Everytown, an average of 96 Americans per day are killed by guns; seven of those being children or teens. The U.S as a whole also averages 13,000 gun homicides each year.

The statistics that flashed before my eyes at the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on Saturday, March 24 are statistics I didn’t enjoy seeing. These are statistics that we must act to change. 

No one should be a statistic. No one should have to spend their eighteenth birthday buried with 16 others from their high school that passed away, like Nicholas Dworet did. Nicholas’ eighteenth birthday would’ve been the day of the March for Our Lives.

I was among the 800,000 people who attended the March for Our Lives in D.C. On Friday night, I attended Shabbat services where Parkland survivors shared their stories. Before we began the silent prayer, a projector displayed every shooting that has happened since January; the number killed, and the number injured. Before reciting Mourner’s Kaddish, we named all 17 people who passed away on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. On Saturday morning, I got to pray with around 3,000 Jews, not just in a morning service, but also at the march -  we were praying with our feet.

I saw so many powerful signs at the protest, including ones that read, “Teachers stand up to guns, but Congress won’t stand up to the NRA” and “My brother survived Virginia Tech… 32 others didn’t #neVer ForgeT”.

Chants filled the streets screaming, “Not one more!”, “Vote them out” and singing songs of hope for our country like “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine”. I joined the Jewish teens from services in leading these chants.

As we 3,000 Reform Jews marched to the National Mall, we joined 800,000 other people. Grandparents, parents, children, teachers, survivors, and victims all were there to make a difference.  We heard speakers who survived Parkland and others faced with gun violence. One of them included the brother of Victoria Soto who passed away in attempts to save her students while they were making gingerbread houses at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Another speaker was Martin Luther King Jr’s granddaughter who reiterated the message her grandfather gave so many years ago.

As the march continued, famous singers began to sing songs of hope like Andra Day’s “Rise Up”, and Miley Cyrus singing “The Climb” encouraging others to join her to spread the message of hope for change to come.

Two girls from Parkland then wrote their own original song about what occurred that day, called “Shine”. They dedicated it to not only their school, but anyone who has lost a friend or loved one to gun violence. Singing lyrics like, “You’re not going to knock us down, we’ll get back up again,” these students wanted to make their lives better, and prevent an incident like what they experienced from happening in another school or public setting.

Once the march was over, my friend and I decided to tour the monuments in Washington D.C. It was overwhelming to see how many of the quotes on the monuments were applicable to what we had marched about that day. Some examples included:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” - Martin Luther King Junior

“We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” - Franklin Delano  Roosevelt

I found myself asking what would happen if these important people were still alive. What would Martin Luther King do? Why is Roosevelt’s quote so applicable to the way society is now? Then I realized we are the future generation. Actually -- we are the current generation. We as Jews can participate in tikkun olam, repairing the world. We have the ability to mend the world, not just for ourselves but future generations. Let us say, NOT ONE MORE. Let us say, NEVER AGAIN.

This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning. If we consider the six minutes and twenty seconds it took the gunman to kill 17 people, and take that amount of time to register to vote, and call our members of Congress, we can ensure that no one else will become a statistic.

I am a Reform Jewish teen, and I will make a difference to end gun violence.

Ashley Schlaeger is a first year Marketing Major at Ohio State University originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a member of the Valley Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio and is an alum of Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) and NFTY Ohio Valley.

Published: 3/29/2018