WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional School junior Karen Magnusdottir McComish remembers how she felt the day the 26 people were gunned down in a Connecticut elementary school.
She never expected to have the same feelings more than five years later when 17 people were killed at a Florida high school.
"Just about everyone in high school right now was in elementary school during Sandy Hook," McComish said this week. "When I was in sixth grade, the only thing I knew about it was that it was scary. We didn't have a voice. People like Moms Demand Action became our voices.
"All of us grew up in this time when there are school shootings and we have these drills to prepare. This has been a reality in our lives. Now, through social media and other avenues, we've been able to connect and have made a difference."
McComish joined with classmate Sophie Jones, senior Maia Hirsch and sophomore Maddy Art to help organize a student walkout at the middle and high school for Wednesday on the one-month anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
"I'm inspired by the survivors of Parkland, the students there," McComish said. "This is something that unites us all.
"The walkout is mainly meant to be a memorial. In order to honor the victims, you have to take action. This is to show that we're still thinking of them a month later."
And for several dozen Mount Greylock students, those thoughts will carry them to Washington, D.C., for the March For Our Lives to call for national action to help address gun violence. The national march is largely being organized by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who have built a movement on social media using the hashtag #NeverAgain. Numerous similar marches are being planned around the country.
"When this march was announced, I knew I wanted to go down to Washington, D.C., but I realized a lot of other students probably wanted to go, too, and might not have the means," McComish said. "I was wondering if there was a way we could go down in solidarity together to be with one another."
As of Monday, 53 people — students and chaperones — have signed up to ride on Mount Greylock's bus to the Washington march. The plan is to leave at 2 a.m. and roll back into town at about 2 a.m. on March 25.
"We're going to be sleeping two nights on a bus, but I think it will be worth it," McComish said. "It will be a different experience than a lot of us have ever had. I think it will be amazing to do together."
The students received organizational help from the local nonprofit Greylock Together to organize the bus trip, and a gofundme.com campaign was established to help defray the cost. The campaign started with a fund-raising goal of $500 on Feb. 24; as of Monday night, more than $3,300 had been raised.
"That shows how much the community cares and how much they want to support us," McComish said. "Our community is very engaged and I know their support will show through their votes as well."
But first there's Wednesday's walkout, which has the full backing of the school's administration.
Although the Cold Spring Road (Route 7) campus lacks the public visibility of some other schools planning walkouts for Wednesday, the organizers of the Mount Greylock event plan to make it an educational event for their fellow students.
In addition to a moment of silence, the 17-minute ceremony will feature biographical information about the 17 Parkland, Fla., victims and a history lesson on successful student activist movements of the past.
"We've registered [Wednesday's walkout] on the national map, so hopefully Congress and people writing the laws in Washington and here in Massachusetts will see that this many schools are doing this," McComish said. "There's power in numbers. It's also a good platform for us to come together as students and realize we can make a difference."
She is hoping that this time the adults follow the students' lead.
"I remember [after Sandy Hook] thinking, ‘'people will listen and we'll be OK, and we'll be safe in our schools,' That was when I was in sixth grade," McComish said. "Now, I'm a junior high school and this is still something regularly happening.
"We were thinking on Wednesday about reading a list of all the schools that have had a shooting since Sandy Hook, and we couldn't do it. The list was too long. It took 10 minutes to read."
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