Hundreds of T.C. Williams High School students and faculty wore orange ribbons in place of red this Valentine’s Day to honor the victims of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. It was the one-year anniversary of the tragic event that killed 17 students and teachers, resulting in a significant cultural impact around the country that still resonates with Alexandria high schoolers.
T.C. senior Hannah Miller bought thousands of ribbons and safety pins for Orange Ribbon Day, and handed them out Thursday morning and afternoon with the help of T.C. leadership students.
“I would say almost every single student I saw today at T.C. wore a ribbon,” Miller told The Zebra. “Every teacher, too. Even the security guards were wearing ribbons. We made sure everyone knew what the orange ribbons were for. For many countries around the world, in Japan, for instance, there were nine gun deaths last year. But in the United States, every day there are 104 gun deaths per day as of 2018. There is still so much that we can do. We can follow the paths of other countries, and we just need stricter gun laws.”
Senior Aiden White handed out ribbons to commemorate the lives lost and spread awareness of gun reform.
“It was a fantastic feeling to walk through the school and see almost everyone wearing an orange ribbon honoring the victims of the Parkland shooting,” White said. “It made me very proud to be an Alexandrian and very proud to be a Titan.”
T.C. junior Ewan Thompson said that the Parkland shooting left a lasting impression on him.
“School shootings have an impact on all students. One of the initial things you deal with is going to school in the aftermath of one of those things,” Thompson said. “It’s difficult to describe. You have this nagging sense of worry. You ask yourself, ‘What would I do? Would I go and hide? Barricade myself in a room?’ It’s like an earthquake and the aftershocks come back to haunt you. … We need to look out for each other, and when things like this happen we are stronger when we come together and show community support, and it’s very important that we get involved in the political process in addition to just wearing ribbons.”
The Parkland shooting motivated Miller to become a human rights activist, and she later organized a school-wide walkout, participated in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., organized voter registration campaigns and has appeared at demonstrations in front of the National Rifle Association and at Alexandria’s Market Square. Miller said that she is participating in a vigil outside the National Rifle Association on Friday, and also praised the House Judiciary Committee’s recent passage of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. Still, she said, there is a lot of work until she and her classmates are satisfied.
“A lot of school shooters get their guns from their parents,” Miller said. “And in many states it’s not required to report a lost firearm, so I want an assault weapons ban on weapons of mass destruction, like the AR-15.”
Meanwhile in Richmond, State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) called on the Senate to adjourn in memory of the Parkland victims, and said that the General Assembly failed Virginia students this session by not passing Sen. Janet Howell’s (D-32) bill that would make it illegal to leave a loaded firearm in reach of children, his bill outlawing AR-15 assault rifles in the Commonwealth and other legislation from Senate Democrats.
“Members of the Senate, I ask you, how many more children will be dead at the hand of a gun before Valentine’s Day next year?” Ebbin said on the Senate floor. “We failed these kids. Since 2013 students have suffered the terror and trauma of over 300 shootings at schools and universities in the U.S. This year, we had a chance to pass Sen. [George] Barker’s (D-39) bill to enable our police to confiscate weapons from those who exhibit red flags, just like the shooter in Parkland did. We did nothing. We failed these kids.”