As the two-mile procession of the Parkland, Florida, March for our Lives reached Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Saturday, student leaders asked the crowd to reman silent out of respect for the 17 killed. Chants of "They fly high as we march by" and "Enough is enough" lessened, shoes shuffled, and marchers whispered as they walked on.
As the crowd thinned that afternoon, some returned to the site of the February carnage to add their signs to makeshift memorials outside the school's perimeter. Five weeks of plastic windmills, photographs, medals, teddy bears, and heaps of flowers dry from the South Florida heat were gathered in emotional adornment. I watched Ellie Durban, who looked no older than six, leave a sign that read, "Keep me safe," among stenciled criticisms of US Senator Marco Rubio, calls to vote, and promises of "Never AGAIN."
While protests have become an increasingly regular pastime for people like me in New York, they're not such a big part of my memories of growing up in Broward County. I graduated from Deerfield Beach High School in 2007, a 30-minute ride east from MSD, whose students I met at sporting events and math competitions. I knew Parkland from sleepovers and birthday parties, for its affluent gated communities and proximity to the Everglades. The Parkland I returned to on Saturday was different, of course: new grounds in a long, tragic American story.
MSD High is now associated with its brave students who are transforming their grief and privilege into power and agency. As Krystin Anderson, who lives near MSD but attends Deerfield told me, "It's my city, it's people I go to church with, people who babysit my little cousins, it could've easily [been me]. I'm here so that it's no one else."
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.