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Where there are people there is sound. Walk into a theater before the show begins and you will hear the low murmur of voices. In every mall, church, school, business, even the library, you will hear us making the talk, shuffling feet, turning pages, sniffling, fingers tapping keys or tabletops.

I cannot say you could have heard a pin drop when Emma Gonzales stopped speaking for five minutes, but I can say that you would have felt the overwhelming discomfort of silence. Approximately 200,000 people stood on and near Pennsylvania Avenue and experienced surprise when Emma abruptly stopped speaking. She gave no warning the silence was coming. People started looking at each wondering what was happening, but we realized what she was doing, and we stayed silent. I heard no baby cry, no toddler beseeching mom for a cookie. There was a breeze and the sun was almost too warm for a March afternoon in DC. Perhaps I heard people shifting from one leg to the other, placards slipping in sweaty hands as we stayed silent, thinking about 17 people dying in 6 minutes and 20 seconds. It was holy and it was horrible.

Five minutes is a long time for humans who really do not like being reflective to stand quietly.  Five minutes to reflect on what we have done or failed to do for our women, children, communities, our nation.

When the children of Sandy Hook were murdered I screamed in my head and my heart or I talked with anyone who wanted to talk about the tragedy, but for all intents and purposes I was silent. Tears I shed as a mother have little meaning now that the bodies are cool and the helicopters stopped flying over the school. My silence makes every mass shooting a problem I did not choose to solve: I was complicit. The best I could do was offer thoughts and prayers and hope that the right people would stand up and take on the job of trying to stop the madness.  Today my message is simple: Children belong in classrooms not body-bags. Teachers need budgets for classrooms instead of gun lockers. People belong in churches, theaters, and dance clubs filled with what gives them happiness in life. Military-style weapons (and their accessories) should not be in the hands of civilians. We can do this and keep our Second Amendment, too.

My son came with me to A March For Our Lives.  He surprised me at first when he asked to come, and of course I was glad and proud that he wanted to participate. His generation is getting tired of being gunned down in classrooms. They are speaking out, pissing people off, and I hope that by their example we of all generations will find a way to be a part of the long-needed change. I will leave you with the words of Emma’s mother, Beth:   “Somebody said ‘Please, tell Emma we’re behind her,’ which I appreciate, but we should’ve been in front of her,” Beth recalled while stifling a few tears, “I should’ve been in front of her. We adults, we should’ve dealt with this twenty years ago.” 

If you are so inclined, visit Moms Demand Action to learn about sensible gun reform, and what you can do to help decrease gun violence at all levels.