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‘More hope now than in a long time’: The stories from March for Our Lives

She hadn’t seen them in weeks, so it was strange to meet here, in the media tent at March for Our Lives.

“Oh hi!” exclaimed Christy Ma, 18, as fellow members of the Eagle-Eye, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School newspaper, were ushered inside.

Ma, a copy editor and reporter for the Eagle-Eye, was among the first student journalists to write a story about the mass shooting last month that killed 17 people from her high school.

Now, she’s covering the march it inspired.

“It’s very surreal. I feel a little like I’m in a dream,” Ma said, standing in the media corral near reporters from outlets such as the New York Times, Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times and the New Yorker.

Writing about the aftermath of the shooting has been hard, she said.

“As a journalist, it’s my job to report on this, but as a survivor, I need to take care of myself,” Ma said.

- Marissa J. Lang

Marissa J. Lang

Edna Chavez, a student from Los Angeles, raised her fist as she greeted the crowd in English and Spanish. In an emotional speech, she recounted the daily trauma of gun violence that plagues her community.

“I have lived in South L.A. my entire life and have lost many loved ones to gun violence,” she said. “This is normal. Normal to the point where I learned to duck from gun bullets before I learned how to read.”

Chavez lost her brother Ricardo to gun violence.

“For decades, my community of south Los Angeles has become accustomed to this violence,” she said. “It is normal to see candles. It is normal to see posters. It is normal to see balloons. It is normal to see flowers honoring the lives of black and brown youth that have lost their lives to a bullet.”

Sarah Chadwick, a Stoneman Douglas junior who spoke onstage before Chavez, said, “We will no longer be hunted down and treated like prey by politicians who simply just don’t care about us.” She continued: “We are fighting. We have been fighting. We’ve been fighting since Columbine, since Sandy Hook, since Pulse, since Las Vegas. And we will continue to fight until we put a stop to gun violence in America.”

- Joe Heim

Joe Heim

Susan Grice, 57, remembers the hopeful feeling she had in 2000 about the possibility of tighter gun-control laws, when she brought her then-8-year-old daughter, Kelly, to the Million Mom March.

All these years later, mother and daughter are still rallying for gun control, while both are working as public school teachers in Maryland.

“I feel like there’s more hope now than in a long time,” said Grice, standing next to her daughter, now 26.

“These kids are so articulate,” she said, singling out Emma González, in particular. “I really feel like everyone has kind of stopped this time and listened.”

Kelly Grice held an old sign advertising the Million Mom March, fighting off a sense of futility. “I’m hopeful we won’t have to be here again in 18 years,” she said. “I’m hopeful I won’t be here with my children marching for gun laws.”

- Antonio Olivo

Antonio Olivo

On Wednesday, he stood in front of his classmates in the gymnasium at his high school in Southeast Washington and urged them to march.

Three days later, Zion Kelly, 17, was preparing to stand in front of the world and tell them why it matters.

“I want people to know my brother wasn’t just another statistic,” Kelly said of his twin brother, Zaire Kelly, who was killed on his way home from a college prep class in September. “It’s not just school shootings. It’s every day in our communities. In my community.”

Kelly is a senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter school focused on law. After the march concludes, he and his classmates said they would get to work on drafting and promoting proposed legislation in honor of his brother.

The twins’ father, Curtis Kelly, watched with pride. “I was here for the Million Man March, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

- Marissa J. Lang

Marissa J. Lang

As part of JROTC at Howard High School in Maryland, junior Jordin Torres helps make sure the blackout paper is in place for when teachers cover the doors and windows.

She checks that the paper isn’t ripped, the rubber bands to keep them up are in place and that the Velcro at the bottom works so the paper can stay down, covering everything.

This is the new normal in some schools. If someone comes to her school armed with a gun, said Torres, 16, of Columbia, Md., that person won’t be able to see into a classroom. She takes these precautions inside the school building, but also knows that gun violence knows no boundaries.

On New Year’s Day, she went on Snapchat and learned that a classmate was fatally shot in her home in the early hours of the morning.

On Saturday, she carried a sign. On one side it read: “I have a dream that one day I won’t be scared to go to school.” On the other side was the name of her slain classmate, “Charlotte.”

- Ellie Silverman

Ellie Silverman

Penn State University freshmen Eric Ciabottonia, 19, and John Bolduc, 18, stood out in the crowd. They weren’t there in support of the March for Our Lives. They were there to offer an opposing opinion in the gun-control debate.

“I want to open a dialogue,” said Ciabottonia, who wore a Make America Great Again hat. “I want a diversity of opinions. I’m here for the Second Amendment, for personal liberties.”

While many marchers believe the answer is fewer guns, Bolduc said he wants the opposite. “I think you’re protecting kids, not by taking away guns, but with guns,” he said.

- Kelyn Soong

Kelyn Soong

Near the corner of Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Marjorie Goldman of Rockville wielded a clipboard stacked with national voter registration forms that can be used to get voters from any state onto the rolls.

“I registered eight people in the first 10 minutes,” said Goldman, who serves on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee.

Goldman said she was frustrated at previous marches, including last year’s Women’s March on Washington, by her perception that participants seemed to think marching was enough. This march, with so many young people in attendance, seemed a great opportunity to reach out to new voters, she said.

Among those Goldman registered were Elise and Adelle Shealy, teenage sisters from Hockessin, Del. Elise, an 18-year-old student at the University of Delaware, said the decision to register was a no-brainer.

“The point is to be here, but after being here, to stay active,” she said. Her sister, Adelle, a 17-year-old who will attend Delaware next year, put her reason for registering more bluntly. “I don’t want Donald Trump to be president again,” she said.

- Justin Wm. Moyer

Justin Wm. Moyer

Lyndsey White, 21, and Nicole Serwinowski, 20, drove more than 12 hours from the University of Alabama with their sorority sisters to attend the march.

For both women, the march was personal: They are Stoneman Douglas alumni.

Serwinowski said she had to do something after the shooting, not only because she is an alum, but because her brother was at the school and lost friends.

White said other girls in her sorority reached out and wanted to support her and Serwinowski, so they decided to get a group together and come to Washington.

As the group took a photo in front of a U-turn sign, one of their chaperons said it was chosen because they weren’t turning back.

- Shira Stein

Shira Stein

The combination of Lee Coddens’s outfit and the sign he carried was eye-catching.

“This USMC vet is with the skinhead lesbian,” the Marine Corps veteran’s sign declared.

Coddens, 68, who wore a Marine kilt and beret, said he has been inspired by Emma González, one of the Parkland, Fla., survivors who has emerged as a national advocate for gun control.

When a GOP candidate in Maine called González “a lesbian skinhead,” Coddens was outraged.

“That’s the kind of mentality I want to fight against,” said Coddens, of Massachusetts.

He said that if government leaders want to reduce gun violence, they need to resist the influence of the National Rifle Association.

“They spread the idea that people need guns to protect themselves — the government needs to change that narrative,” Coddens said.

He said that as a veteran, he wants to use his voice to advocate for things that are good.

“And this is good,” he said, looking at the sea of teenagers holding signs in front of him.

- Rachel Chason

Rachel Chason

It took a lot of effort to push the wheelchair through the grass, up and down the hillocks at Pine Trail Park in Parkland, Fla. But Anishka Milleret wanted to make sure her children were present at the Parkland March for Our Lives rally.

Her daughters, Dianna and Deanna Milleret, are 16-year-old twins and sophomores at Stoneman Douglas. Deanna’s cerebral palsy requires her to be in a wheelchair much of the time. It was rough going on the park’s bumpy turf, but that didn’t stop them.

“They both have memories of that day, and they’re both dealing with it in their own ways,” Milleret said. “It was important for them to be out here, to see the support they have.”

After the trauma of being in school during the shooting, the Millerets had the added anxiety of not being able to locate Deanna for hours afterward. She was evacuated along with hundreds of other students to a nearby hotel, but it took her mother hours to get to her.

“I’m hoping things can get back to normal at some point,” Anishka Milleret said. “I think they will. I hope so.”

- Lori Rozsa

Lori Rozsa

The March in New York came to an end at 3 p.m. Saturday, but for Adam Kroll and his family, the pain will continue.

Kroll’s 14-year-old cousin, Alyssa Alhadeff, died in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas.

“These things wouldn’t happen if high-capacity weapons with high-capacity magazines weren’t on the street. We’re not for taking away guns, we’re for common sense,” he said.

Kroll said he hopes Saturday’s marches across the country lead to legislation to reduce gun violence.

“I hope that our politicians value their careers enough to vote for the people instead of the lobby,” he said.

- Diana Crandall

Diana Crandall