At 10 o’clock on Wednesday, hundreds of Blind Brook students along with thousands across the nation walked out of class to make their voices heard. This came a month after the massacre in Parkland, Florida that claimed the life of 17 innocent students and teachers.
As students began to congregate outside, the mood was a combination of somber, hopeful, and indignant. The baseball field buzzed with the energy of teenagers ready for change. Some carried signs, saying “Arms are for hugging, not shooting”, “no more silence, end gun violence”, and many others. Others showed their solidarity by wearing orange and black, the designated colors of the official walkout, organized by Women’s March Youth.
The turnout, although large, was not surprising – the event was designed this way. “I wanted to ensure the highest participation rate. Gun violence should not be a partisan issue… We wanted to honor the victims of the shooting, which is something everyone can respect,” shared Hannah Steinthal, one of the student organizers of the event.
A series of students addressed those walking out; first, the members of the school Congress board came up to speak. They each expressed the shared sentiment that all the students were there to make their voices heard and finally begin to put an end to the epidemic of gun violence in America, no matter individual stance on solutions.
The students were followed by Westchester County Legislator, Nancy Barr. She focused her speech on what comes next; how to ensure that the incredible activism and solidarity so present at the walkout would not die there. She emphasized the importance of voting, specifically for students who have just turned or are soon to turn eighteen. She went on to offer alternatives for those not yet eligible to vote, like working on a campaign and organizing future walkouts and protests.
“We wanted Nancy to speak because she modeled civic engagement: she had been unhappy about how her elected officials were handling an issue, and chose to get involved in government rather than stand idly by,” explained Abe Baker-Butler. Abe was one of the students who helped plan the march, and he specifically was instrumental in bringing Nancy Barr to speak.
Two students who attend Starlight Camp, Rowan Kansler and Ben Simon, spoke next. One of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) shooting, Scott Beigel, was a geometry teacher at MSD and a division leader at Starlight. Both agreed the walkout is something Scott would have supported wholeheartedly, describing him as a big brother and mentor-like figure in their lives. They were joined at the podium with other students who attend Starlight, many wearing “Starlight Strong” shirts with Beigel’s name on the back. Various students sold #DouglasStrong and #StarlightStrong bracelets in the commons throughout the day, planning to donate the profits to Scott’s memorial fund.
Christine Argentino read the names of the survivors of the Parkland shooting aloud, followed by a minute of silence. It was a powerful (and rare) moment; students bowed their heads and no one interrupted with a snide comment or an intentional cough – a true silence.
Students Hannah Steinthal, Kellie Franzblau, and Maya Finkman each gave short speeches as well. They echoed Barr’s earlier emphasis on ensuring that the empowerment felt during the walkout should not end there, mentioning the March For Our Lives event taking place across the country on March 24th, as well as another tentative walkout April 20th, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
The walkout was wrapped up with a video of all the students in attendance shouting, “we say enough,” in unison, to be posted on social media to publicly display the near unanimous support of the student body for the #Enough movement (Courtesy of Justin Levine).
Although the walkout ended then, students filing back to their respective classes and continuing with their normal day, it was evident this fight is not over for many. Students could be heard talking amongst themselves in the hallway, excitedly discussing what they planned to do next. Whether it be marching or campaigning, mental health or gun control, the walkout was an event that clearly brought the majority of the student body together.