Sometimes, things happen in life that cause you to throw away everything you were working on and start over. This past week, I did just that. I tossed out my ordinary anecdotal article, and I did my best to write this letter and use my platform in a way that I could be proud of.
To the adults of Wilton, Connecticut, and the United States of America:
As a senior in high school, I am aware of how much life I have yet to live. I have not purchased my own car, I do not know how much it costs to rent an apartment in New York City, and I could not answer a question about America’s health care system even if I tried. Older generations sometimes pass my peers and me off as not knowing what they talk about, and they’re right. We do not have the same bounty of life experience. However, our generation has had the distinct displeasure of growing up in a world where mass shootings are ever present in our malls, our movie theaters, and our schools. We have known heartbreak; we turn on our television screens and watch body counts increase. We have known fear; we recognize the backpack brands of students just like us, sprinting from their classrooms. We have known broken promises; we hear the words “never again” spoken to us every time a mass shooting occurs, yet as soon as we heal from one attack, another occurs. Some of us have grown up with a repressed feeling of “what if,” with our eyes darting to locate the nearest exit every time we go see a film or fidget in discomfort during school lock-down drills.
When the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred over five years ago, I had just turned 13 years old. At the time, I did not know what an automatic weapon was, but I knew that, 30 minutes away, children had died. Young kids, some five and six years old, were now forced to confront the darkness of mass shootings. Suddenly, life experience becomes relative when the survivors of the Newtown shooting had to grieve their friends and family before the young students even reached the third grade.
The aftermath of the Florida attack has been rather divisive politically, and disappointingly so. In an effort to be transparent, I fully support stricter gun control legislation and I will proudly participate in the nationwide school walkout on March 14. I look forward to joining the incredible students and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in their fight. I watched the video of senior Emma Gonzalez speaking passionately and eloquently at a gun control rally in Parkland, Fla. She spoke with the wisdom of someone who knows pain and wears her grief proudly as a sign of her desire to fight for what she believes is right. Her voice, along with her classmates, demands to be heard. Regardless of whether or not people agree with her, she has the courage to speak out and try to catalyze change, something that defies age and defines maturity.
Adults are starting to take notice, as hashtags erupt across social media platforms and dinner table conversations are taken over by impassioned teenagers ready to take action. Representative Jim Himes is certainly paying attention, as seen by his attendance at a meeting organized by Isabella Segall that discussed gun control. I was not able to make the meeting, but everyone I spoke to left feeling more validated and heard. The bravery of students like Isabella commands the attention of her peers, and dozens of students showed up to the meeting ready to engage in debate.
So, to the adults: please listen to us. Hear our ideas, regardless of how idealistic they might seem. Join us in our conversations, and bring your years of experience to help us reach out to politicians and fight for change. This is a difficult, controversial, and painful conversation to have, but we have run out of time. Let us run to a solution. My generation is ready to mobilize, and we are not afraid to take action. Are you?
Senior at Wilton High School
Lydia Hoffman is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.