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One year later: UT in the aftermath of Parkland

By Sydney Rhodes & Briana DeTuro

Alex Martinez, freshman international business major, hid between the seats of an auditorium with his backpack above his head as he heard screams from outside the glass doors. He then began to send messages to his family and close friends as he sat in a room of fellow peers who were crying and talking quietly on their phones.

“I just remember praying at that time and thinking to myself ‘I just want to be able to walk into my house again, to be able hug my mom again and play with my siblings again.’ The thought of not being able to do that again really scared me,” said Martinez.

After an hour went by, the students heard banging from outside the auditorium doors and the room went silent. The SWAT team then busted into the room and shouted out instructions.

Last year on Feb. 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL went into a lockdown after a fire alarm had been pulled and student Nikolas Cruz opened fire. The shooting left 17 students and faculty members dead and 17 others injured.

Although the tragic event left many in mourning, the Parkland shooting brought movements, protests and a demand for change in the United States.

“The way the people and the world reacted to us was unbelievable,” said Martinez. “Our sense of community was to the point where everyone appreciates each other and Parkland as a whole was really brought together.”

Last year, UT students and faculty participated in the National Walkout movement in the Vaughn Courtyard by leaving their classrooms to recognize the students who lost their lives.

“Last year UT’s administration was very supportive of the walkout, but it became more challenging to organize one this year as well as collaboration with other organizations,” said Kevin O’Hare, president of the UT College Democrats and senior political science major.

Although there wasn’t a walkout again on campus this year, O’Hare said the UT College of Democrats wrote passive aggressive Valentine’s Day letters to representatives in Tallahassee to express their stance on gun violence. The club also wrote out the victim’s names of the Parkland shooting on the sidewalks of the Vaughn Courtyard and placed roses for campus to see on the Feb. 14 anniversary.

“We are trying to remind people that we are making strides towards legislations banning guns and such, and we have to remember that we still have a governor who isn’t making those strides. It’s still an issue that students are facing,” said Claire Breeden, a sophomore economics and entrepreneurship major and one of the lead organizers of the walkout last year.

Casey Bauer, senior political science major and club member of the UT College Democrats said it is important to commemorate the victims but also have a safe space for students to discuss the controversy around gun violence.

“At UT, we are going to be the future leaders of tomorrow,” said Bauer. “We need to stop making this a new norm. The line is impossible to walk. You can’t solely commemorate the dead and you can’t solely just be focusing on gun control. You have to do both.”

Sydney Rhodes and Briana DeTuro can be reached at sydney.rhodes@spartans.ut.edu and briana.deturo@spartans.ut.edu

 

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