YARMOUTH — Students at North Yarmouth Academy stood in silence and solidarity for 13 minutes Friday to honor the 13 lives lost April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School.
Without a sound, approximately 100 middle and high school students left their classrooms at 10 a.m. Friday to line Main Street.
This was the second nationwide school walkout to take place in the past two months since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
NYA students were on school vacation during the first walkout March 14. This time, the private school was in session while Maine’s public schools were on break.
While some participating students on Friday opted to carry signs calling for stricter gun laws, the message behind the walkout was much broader.
“The message behind it was to end school shootings, no matter how you think that should be done,” senior Tessa Quattrucci said. “If you’re behind that, we invited you to walk out.”
Quattrucci was one of six student organizers who planned the walkout.
Like most high school students, junior Alex Markonish was born after the Columbine shooting. But she said she remembers Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I remember just hearing that something bad happened,” Markonish said. “I couldn’t really imagine something bad happening in my school.”
Six years later, that disbelief has been replaced with anger.
“After the Parkland (shooting), I felt really angry,” senior Connor Dillon said. “We’ve allowed it to happen over and over again. … (Columbine) happened 19 years ago (and) it’s happened recently.”
His anger, Dillon said, is fueled by the lack of action to ensure school shootings never happen again.
“I’m not as much in shock anymore. If we haven’t changed anything, why are we expecting it to not happen again,” he said.
February’s shooting, senior Kara Jensen said, “hit close to home.”
“We’ve grown up with this,” she said. “Are we going to deal with this for the rest of our lives too?”
Quattrucci, Markonish, Dillon, Jensen and junior Hannah Gagne said they were moved by the action student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took after the shooting in Florida.
“Seeing how our generation has reacted to (tragedy) has really inspired a lot of people to take a stand wherever they are,” Gagne said. “We’re past the point of being confused about it because we’ve seen it happen so many times.”
Dillon compared school shootings to other national tragedies such as 9/11, after which airport security was enhanced.
He said he doesn’t understand why something isn’t being done at the national level in the aftermath of school shootings.
“There’s been small legislation made at (local) and state levels … but just because it happens in one state doesn’t mean another is immune to it,” Dillon said. “There’s been no national uptake.”
One of the reasons for that, Quattrucci hypothesized, is that the attack on 9/11 was by members of al-Queda, not Americans.
“Most of the (perpetrators) of school shootings are people from our country and a lot of people have issues with that and are not ready to own up to the fact that it was our fault and not somebody else’s,” she said. “They can’t blame it on anybody else but our country.”
Jensen said she believes strongly in regulating who can buy a gun and what kind of gun they should be able to buy.
“It’s a kind of selfish mindset, only thinking about your Second Amendment rights,” she said. “People need to start thinking about others more.”
Whatever the preferred measure may be, the worst thing, the students agreed, is to be silent about things that matter to them.
“It is a problem we can solve,” Dillon said. “It’s a complicated one, but it’s one that’s worth solving. … The longer we wait to make change, the more drastic the measures are going to have to be.”
Quattrucci added that this is the year many of her friends and peers will first be able to vote.
“Our generation is the one who’s going to make the laws,” she said. “I’m done with thoughts and prayers … thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
About 100 North Yarmouth Academy students left their classrooms at 10 a.m. Friday, April 20, to silently line up on Main Street for 13 minutes in honor of the 13 lives lost 19 years ago at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Middle and high school students at NYA protested school shootings in the memory of those who were killed in 1999 at Columbine High School.
From left, students Hannah Gagne, Alex Markonish, Connor Dillon, Kara Jensen and Tessa Quattrucci organized the optional school-wide walkout on April 20 with help from school administration.