Gun reform advocates encourage student voting on 19th Columbine anniversary

“Bang, pow, bullets flying, like the speed of light as fast as lightning, seeing the ground catching my dad, man it was frightening.”

This was the start of the poem by HHS junior Juniel

Rodriguez, spoken aloud at the walkout on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. The poem was read by Paloma Rodriguez (no relation), and told the story of Juniel’s witness of his father’s death due to gun violence.

“As he wobbled to his feet I see him grab the deep wound, pain aching. What do you want me to do? Just an eight year old boy, the nerves conquered over, my hands are shaking,” Rodriguez went on. “Mama rushing down the stairs calling 9-1-1, ‘Help! Help!’ screaming into the phone.”

The large group stood at the front of the school Apr. 20, listening, with the speakers elevated on a semi-circle brick wall, surrounding the growing crowd. Senior Corin Vogel was amongst the speakers, telling students that gun violence even affects the lives within our town, just as it did to Rodriguez.

“They just came and went, it’s just my brother and I left home alone. Summer nights filled with silence, as you see the bright lights and hearing sirens, thinking in your mind as your thoughts rock. You’re Titanic,” Rodriguez read. “Reminiscing about the one time that you stood over in shock, lightly panicked, witnessing what could have been a homicide, looking left, right, there’s no one left aside.”

Students need to know what they can do next. With all of the gun reform commotion over the past months, this knowledge was the goal that student gun reform advocates wanted to spread. Senior Karina Vasquez, junior Parker Rising, sophomore Sweta Kunver and freshmen Oziel Valdez and Dany T Medhin stood amongst Vogel and Rodriguez, spreading their voices across each student that left class at 10 a.m. The event was short, but to the point, with 47 seconds of silence, representing the 47 minutes that the infamous Columbine shooter was on the loose before the SWAT team entered.

“We need to take action,” Vogel started. “We live in a system that is broken, but a system that is meant to be fixed.”

This walkout was not only to bring recognition, but to bring action. Vogel went on to encourage students to vote, announcing that students will be given the opportunity to register within the school building Tues., Apr. 24 in hopes of increasing student-voter numbers. Junior Andy Ventura-Lopez cannot yet vote, though the event opened his eyes to how much an individual person really does matter.

“I wasn’t going to vote because I thought my vote wouldn’t count,” Ventura-Lopez said. “But now that I know my vote can make a change, [it] inspired me.”

This walkout was different than ones in the past, as it was completely student organized, without the knowledge of administration. Despite this, the walkout was deemed a success, empowering action and spreading a message. Rodriguez’s poem was right alongside them.

“The actions you partake in, you get to decide. Watch as my hand grabs the pencil and it touches the paper, it slightly glides. What I have left inside makes the pain go away like magic, so step onto my carpet and enjoy the ride.”