Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior Emma Gonzalez stood silent, with tears streaming down her face, on a stage in front of thousands at Saturday’s March For Our Lives.
After listing the names of the 17 people killed when a gunman rampaged through her school on Valentine’s Day, Gonzalez asked the crowd to fathom how so many could be murdered in only 6 minutes and 20 seconds.
And then she stopped speaking.
Silent minutes ticked by. Then an alarm beeped.
“Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds,” she said finally. “The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest.”
She added: “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”
In the 39 days since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, Gonzalez and her fellow student survivors have galvanized a nationwide movement for gun reform.
On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of students gathered in the nation’s capitol and at sister marches across the country and around the world to deliver a powerful, unified message: Enough is enough.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School organized and hosted the main event on the mall in Washington with the U.S. Capitol in the background, a stark reminder of why they were demanding change.
“We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come,” Cameron Kasky, one of the student organizers told a cheering crowd filled with teenagers. “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”
The Washington rally featured 20 student speakers, numerous famous musicians and the Stoneman Douglas Drama Club, which performed their original song “Shine” with the student choir. Organizers estimated that approximately 800,000 people attended the march.
Across the country, there were more than two dozen marches that occurred in large cities, including New York, Miami, Cincinnati, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Rallies were also held around the world in Israel, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., Japan, Belgium, India, France and Chile.
In total, organizers estimated there were approximately 800 marches organized on Friday and Saturday — even one in Antarctica.
In Washington, rally-goers were chanting “vote them out! Vote them out!” before the event began. Hundreds of homemade signs were held up above the crowd: “Stop the madness vote them out.” Another said, “18th century law can’t regulate 21st century weapons.” And another put it bluntly: “What’s worth more? Your children or your guns?”
But Parkland survivor Jaclyn Corin said Saturday’s rally was also about recognizing that gun violence is a nationwide problem.
“We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence,” she said. “But we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun.”
Trevon Bosely, 19, talked about the gun violence in Chicago that killed his brother Terrell Bosely on the way to church in April 2006. He said that these gun deaths are tied to the White House and American political leadership.
“When you have a president that would rather constantly talk about and belittle Chicago’s violence rather than send funds and resources, you have gun violence,” Bosley said.
“It’s time for the nation to realize gun violence is more than just a Chicago problem or Parkland problem but an America problem,” he added.
But it wasn’t just recent graduates and high school students who took the stage on Saturday. Naomi Wadler, 11, of Alexandria, Virginia, spoke, as well. She led a walkout at her elementary school on March 14.
“It’s time for the nation to realize gun violence is more than just a Chicago problem or Parkland problem but an America problem.”