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#MSDStrong, 3 Months Later

On Valentine’s Day 2018, my heart broke.
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14 years old.
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14 years old.
Jaime Guttenberg, 14 years old.
Alaina Petty, 14 years old.
Gina Montalto, 14 years old.
Cara Loughran, 14 years old.
Alexander Schachter, 14 years old.
Luke Hoyer, 15 years old.
Peter Wang, 15years old.
Carmen Schentrup, 16 years old.
Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, 17 years old.
Helena Ramsay, 17 years old.
Nicholas Dworet, 17 years old.
Meadow Pollock, 18 years old.
Scott Beigel, 35 years old.
Christopher Hixon, 49 years old.
Aaron Feis, 37 years old.
These are the victims of the most recent mass shooting in America.
Say their names.
MSD Vigil (Photo: Alana Dascent)
It has been 3 months since this horrific and completely avoidable tragedy.
Why does this keep happening?!?  Why isn’t anyone with power in America doing something to keep our children safe?  How can I feel safe sending my child to school when nothing ever seems to change?? These were my cries on that day and since.
In May 1993, one of my classmates shot and killed another.  I feel it in my skin and my bones, every time there is another school/church/nightclub/movie theater shooting.  I wonder why it hasn’t stopped.  I wonder when it will.
The media descended on the school in Parkland, as students processed their grief and disbelief over this horror happening, in real time.  I watched them rise up to ask Trump, the NRA, the FBI, the Sheriff, the armed guard on site and the politicians how they could have allowed this happen yet again.  I watched parents grieve, holding one another up as their world fell out from under them.  I watched their grief and outrage spark a national movement. The survivors became activists. These children did what the adults before them should have already done.
The shooter, whose name I choose not to acknowledge here, was known for being a tormentor, threatening to rape female classmates, attaching the tails of small animals that he claimed to have killed on his lunchbox/backpack, bragging about violence and being an overall menace dating back to early middle school.
He was allowed to slip through the cracks of the system.  By the time he entered MSD on Valentine’s Day, he had been expelled from school.  After using an AR15, which he purchased legally, to kill and injure the students and teachers, he blended in with the crowd evacuating the school, bought himself a soda and waited to be apprehended.  There were warning signs.. Many, in fact, including bragging posts on his own social media, reports by his host family, a report to the Florida FBI.
The MSD students rose up and answered my internal cries.  They marched, walked out, gave speeches and used the media to share the message #NeverAgain.  They took Action.
The mainstream media has stopped covering this story almost completely now, but the issues that surround this ever-growing problem continue to plague our lives.  Action is still necessary.  We are all responsible for making it happen. This post will show you how you can help those who were affected that day, and those causes that have been started as a result.
I decided to reach out, and I spoke with 2 amazing young people who, along with their classmates and parents of the living and the lost, have chosen to take some real action against the ongoing atrocities of gun violence in schools.  They want every American to join a cause and help end this horrible epidemic plaguing our country.  This post is my way of offering everyone a way to help.
Brandon Dasent & his mother, Alana, moved to Parkland last year because of the school’s wonderful reputation.  I learned of  Brandon on Twitter, when someone posted that he was a speaker representing  S.T.O.R.M. (Students Timely Organizing Revolutionary Movements) at a town hall meeting in Miami Gardens, an area that experiences gun violence nearly daily.  He was there representing students of Color, and he offered some real solutions for how students, politicians and law enforcement could work together to establish conflict resolution programs, locally and nationwide.
Brandon Dasent, 17 years old (Photo courtesy of Brandon & Alana Dasent)
In affluent Parkland, people were surprised to learn that there were People of Color (POC) there at all.  STORM’s goal is to establish a coalition for everyone working for change in the community to come together and make sure that People of Color are included in the solutions.  Inclusivity is key for this group of students.  As a young Black man, Brandon spoke from his heart.
The students who started STORM, spreading their message of inclusion & real change from the ground, up (Photo courtesy of Alana Dasent)
I watched as this articulate young man described being targeted by the police stationed at the school after the shooting.  He described oversleeping and arriving to school just in time for homeroom one day, and needing to use the restroom.  With his hall pass, he rushed down the hall and was stopped by an officer outside the bathroom door.  He was questioned about where he was going, why he didn’t use the bathroom before coming to school, why he was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, and why his hair was messy.
My immediate response as this scenario unfolded was that this would not have happened if Brandon were not Black.  The issue to of racial profiling has come to be an undeniable issue, and the fact that it could now penetrate our children of Color at the schools they are attending is terrifying.  A white student would not have been interrogated in this manner once they answered where they were coming from and going in the same scenario.
Whether we like it or not, race relations with law enforcement is a major factor when we discuss the issue of gun violence.  Since POC face less opportunity, and therefore higher rates of poverty, we see a high rate of gun violence in the African-American and Hispanic communities as well.  As we begin to take steps to protect our children from guns in schools, it is crucial that we disallow racial profiling to bleed into interfering with protecting the very children likely to be racially targeted.
Rachel Padnis is on the yearbook staff, has been in the school band and is an artist in her own right.  As her classmates were speaking out, she wanted an alternative to public speaking, so she turned to her art.  A local business took a drawing that she made and made it into a digital design. This began her fundraising efforts, with sales of stickers and shirts, which she has grown to a multitude of products that raise money for the MSD PTA and the needs of the teachers, surviving students and the purchasing of school equipment.  She works tirelessly to spread the word.  Buy her products and support this cause here.

Here are the other ways that you can support the various efforts started in the Parkland community:
  1. Alyssa Alhadeff- Make Schools Safe, Inc. Started by her parents
  1. Scott Beigel- Scott J Beigel Memorial Fund
  1. Martin Duque Anguiano
  1. Nicholas Dworet
  1. Aaron Feis – no longer collecting donations
  1. Jaime Guttenberg- Orange Ribbons For Jaime, started by her father
  1. Chris Hixon-gofundme for his family
  1. Luke Hoyer – no longer collecting donations
  1. Cara Loughran- gofundme for her family
  1. Gina Montalto memorial foundation
  1. Joaquin Oliver – Change the Ref, started by his parents
  1. Alaina Petty- Her Dad started the Walk Up Foundation
  1. Meadow Pollack – Meadow’s Movement started by her father
  1. Helena Ramsay – Memorial fund
  1. Alex Schachter -safe schools for Alex, started by his father
  1. Carmen Schentrup- Memorial fund
  1. Peter Wang- Memorial fund
I got my sticker. Get yours!
Take a stand. Take action.  Write letters.  Apply pressure to your politicians to work toward sensible gun laws.  Volunteer.  Take your kids with you.  Raise citizens of the world.  Make the deaths of these kids count for something more than another statistic. VOTE.  Say their names.
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