The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion My daughter died at Parkland. It’s now my job to be her voice.

Soccer players and other students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hold signs and weep for their former teammate, Alyssa Alhadeff.
Soccer players and other students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hold signs and weep for their former teammate, Alyssa Alhadeff. (Stephen M. Dowell/AP)

Lori Alhadeff is the mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, one of 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Her name was Alyssa . My beautiful daughter was only 14 when she was shot and killed in her classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School .

The day after her death, I was interviewed on camera. I could barely speak: “I just spent the last two hours putting together the burial arrangements for my daughter’s funeral, who’s 14.”

I was grieving and outraged that day — and have been every day since. I miss my baby girl more than words can express.

Alyssa was a special young girl who was just beginning her high school education and had so much life to live.

Alyssa was a leader. She was the captain of her soccer team with hopes of playing professionally. An honors student who aced algebra after placing out of pre-algebra. A volunteer at a homeless shelter. Someone whose laugh was contagious.

That was my Alyssa — weeks from her 15th birthday. I know in my heart that she was meant for greatness. Instead, she was one of 17 killed and more than a dozen injured in her school.

Here’s something else about my Alyssa: She was a fighter. Now, it is my job to fight in her name — to end gun violence, to elect people who will stand up to the National Rifle Association and to make our communities safer.

Pastor Michael McBride says while he loves the activism of the Parkland students, he wishes adults paid more attention to inner-city gun violence. (Video: Gillian Brockell, Kate Woodsome, James Pace-Cornsilk/The Washington Post)

Opponents of gun reforms say nothing can be done. Science says they’re wrong.

In honor of Alyssa, and all the other young men and women and educators who were shot and killed in Parkland, Fla., a group of surviving students from Stoneman Douglas started the March for Our Lives. On Saturday, I will march in my daughter’s honor in Washington. I am moved beyond words that student organizers from across the country and the world will host more than 800 sibling marches that day.

In Alyssa’s name, I ask our lawmakers: Why hasn’t anything been done? There is so much elected officials can do to make our children safer in their schools. And they can make all Americans safer by strengthening our gun laws.

I say to our lawmakers: If you can’t do something about this disgraceful scourge of gun violence in our schools and across our country, you should not hold public office. It is your job to find answers. If you can’t, or won’t, let someone take your place.

I know what my job is now. My job is to be Alyssa’s voice, because hers has been silenced. My job is to fight to make sure that other kids all across the country don’t have to go to school and feel unsafe. To honor Alyssa’s memory, I have created the organization Make Schools Safe with a mission of preventing school shootings. I will speak out for stronger gun laws.

What gives me hope, beyond my grief and outrage? The very students who are asked to go to school and risk being shot and killed. This generation gives me hope. They are doing what Alyssa would be doing had she survived. The surviving Stoneman Douglas students, and students across the country, are courageous and powerful advocates.

I stand with these students, in Alyssa’s honor, and I will cheer them on as they fight for much-needed change.

Alyssa always thought she was safe. I would tell her to lock the door, and she would reply, “Why do I have to lock the door? It’s Parkland. Nothing happens in Parkland.”

It is on us, the students, the adults, the elected officials to make sure no one ever forgets what happened in Parkland.

Read more on this issue:

The Post’s View: A school shooting could happen anywhere. That’s why students from everywhere are marching.

Helaine Olen: The Parkland kids are revealing America’s failings for all to see

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Why is only one side in the gun culture war required to show respect?

Paul Waldman: Why the Parkland students have made pro-gun conservatives so mad