Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of last month's deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has used her words to advocate for gun reform and gain a national audience. But on Saturday, her silence spoke louder.
"Six minutes and about 20 seconds," Gonzalez said onstage at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. "In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone – absolutely everyone – in the Douglas community was forever altered.
"Everyone who was there understands," she continued. "Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands. For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing. No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called. No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath or how far this would reach or where this would go. For those who still can't comprehend because they refuse to, I'll tell you where it went: right into the ground, 6 feet deep.
"Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15, and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice. Aaron Feis would never call Kira 'Miss Sunshine.' Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother, Ryan. Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp. Helena Ramsey would never hang out after school with Max. Gina Montalto would never wave to her friend Liam at lunch. Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan. Alaina Petty would never. Cara Loughran would never. Chris Hixon would never. Luke Hoyer would never. Martin Duque Anguiano would never. Peter Wang would never. Alyssa Alhadeff would never. Jamie Guttenberg would never. Meadow Pollack would never."
Gonzalez then fell silent as the crowd looked on. That silence lasted more than four minutes as she and the crowd tearfully paid tribute to the victims.
"Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds," she said after an alarm rang from the podium. "The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job."
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