In the year since the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, activism has been the key to moving forward for many survivors, including Lauren Hogg and Ryan Deitsch. Deitsch, 18, and Hogg, 15, were in class the day of the shooting at the Parkland school that left 17 dead and 17 wounded.
“You can remember exactly what you were doing a year ago, you can remember exactly how it was, but every day this year, everything that we’ve been doing, every day has felt like a lifetime,” Deitsch, who graduated in May, told CBSN’s Anne-Marie Green.
For Hogg, that terrible day one year ago also seems like “just yesterday.”
“I think of the conversations I had with my friends on Feb. 14, and it’s crazy to think it’s been almost a year now,” Hogg, now a sophomore, told Green.
What made Parkland so different from other mass shootings was how quickly survivors turned their pain into action. Within days, Deitsch, Hogg, her brother David Hogg, and other Parkland students were demanding more than just “thoughts and prayers” from lawmakers and leaders. Within weeks, the young men and women had garnered the support of activists across the country who joined their gun reform and school safety platform with the March 2018 “March for Our Lives.” Nearly one million students walked out of their classrooms to demand change, sparking a national movement.
Hogg told CBSN she wouldn’t have made it through the last year without activism, which she said “gives me a reason to get up every single morning.”
“These faces you see on TV aren’t just characters, they’re people who had real lives, who have parents who have sisters and brothers, and who could be you if things don’t change,” Hogg said.
Deitsch credits the student activists with helping to pass more than 67 state laws aimed at gun violence prevention.
Parents of the slain, too, heeded the students’ call to action. Tony Montalto lost his daughter Gina, 14, in the Parkland shooting. He said some days, “we look around and we’re still waiting for Gina to walk through that door.”
“We were proud the surviving students found a voice and a way to demand change,” Montalto told CBSN.
Montalto heeded the students’ call, helping found Stand With Parkland, a national advocacy organization that promotes school safety, mental health care access and responsible gun ownership. The group helped pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in Florida, which bans those under 21 from purchasing firearms; prohibits bump-stocks, which enable semi-automatic weapons to mimic automatic gunfire; and strengthens measures intended to keep guns away from people with mental illness.
“Seventeen people did not come home from school and 17 others were wounded,” Montalto said. “It can happen anywhere. As long as the discussion is still going on, there’s a chance for change.”