WILMINGTON — Thousands of people gathered Saturday in communities across the nation — including Clinton Countians both here and in Washington, D.C. — at March For Our Lives rallies advocating for stronger gun laws.
The movement was led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a February shooting.
Wilmington High School juniors Emma Schroeder, Adrienne Besser and Meredith Robinson attended the march in Washington, along with Adrienne’s mother, Laura Besser, and Emma’s mother, Jennifer Conlon.
“We went to the march because we’re tired of hearing about gun violence on the news and we’re tired of being afraid,” said Meredith Robinson. “We shouldn’t be scared to go to school, the movie theater or a concert. I’m not going to lie; going to the march was even a little scary, because you never know what could happen.
“I went because I don’t believe I should have to fear going to school,” said Adrienne Besser. “Teachers shouldn’t have to train us where to go. I shouldn’t have to worry about if every sound in the hallway is a gun. I have escape routes for all my classes; I should not have to do that.”
She said the rally was peaceful. “It was great to see everyone come together — 850,000 — toward the same goal. And we’re not going away,” she added.
Emma Schroeder said she wanted to participate in the rally because, “I feel we are the next generation of voters and we’re going to be making decisions on our future, so now is the time to start becoming activists and having our voices heard on issues that are controversial.”
She added that “it was amazing all these people of different ages came together to share their beliefs; it shows that this is not just a few people; it’s a global issue.”
Adrienne Besser’s mother, Laura Besser, a teacher, attended the march not only to support daughter Adrienne, but as a teacher.
“I participated more to support my daughter in the beginning,” said Besser. “She feels so strongly about sensible gun control; she’s very passionate about what she thinks.”
She also said that, as a teacher, she sees “how school shootings are impacting classrooms. We practice lockdown drills, go through ALICE training … and we’re watching and paying closer attention to what’s outside our door.”
ALICE is an acronym for active shooter training — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
“Something needs to change,” Laura Besser said. “I would like people to sit down and at least listen and let’s work together. That’s not happening right now.
She added that the rally “was amazing; it was very peaceful and well-organized. It was remarkable to see. It was powerful, seeing the kids speak.”
Jennifer Conlon said she took her daughter Emma to the rally because Emma is passionate about this cause.
“The crowd was large but respectful; they listened,” Conlon said. “It was well-organized, and the kids that spoke, they spoke passionately. And it wasn’t just about Florida — they had kids who were victims of violence in Chicago, Brooklyn, L.A., a boy from D.C. that had lost his twin, a kid from Newtown that lost his sister; they brought a number of perspectives.”
Meredith Robinson added, “I am very thankful and appreciative of everyone who helped support our decision to do this.”
A total of 39 local citizens stood in the cold Saturday morning to rally outside the Clinton County Courthouse.
That group included Rev. Elaine Silverstrim of Wilmington.
“I marched for my friend, Darlene, murdered while playing the organ during worship, by her ex-husband, a teacher,” said Silverstrim. “I marched for Mitch, a bright young man who suffered depression and committed suicide. I marched for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren who practice ‘lockdown’, not as a hypothetical situation, but as something they know can happen anywhere. I marched as a responsible gun owner who wants to see responsible gun laws once again.”
“As a veteran, firearm owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, I believe we also need common-sense regulations of weapons designed to kill,” said John Lundblad of Wilmington. “Universal background checks on all transfers of weapons and restrictions on assault-style arms and high capacity magazines would be my desire.”
“I marched because the safety of children should come before military style weapons,” said Brittany Skidmore of Wilmington.
Beth Gilkison of Clinton County said, “I was staying home because of my car accident aches and pains, and I said to myself, ‘No more of this, I’m marching. The kids and the world need me.’ I want the big assault rifles gone, except for military purposes. I want protection for our kids and all of us. Our world needs us, our own area needs us. We have to be heard, and I feel our march here was moving.”
Terry Hughes Ling of Clinton County added, “As a retired music ed teacher for 32 years, I marched for all of my former students and their children and my granddaughter. Their safety is most important. We need responsible gun laws, not military weapons.”
Across the state
“As an educator for over 30 years, I found the March for Our Lives rallies, organized and led by youth, inspiring,” said Joy Brubaker of Wilmington, who attended the march in Columbus.
She said that rally “had speakers who called for legislators to do their job and find solutions to the school shooting epidemic. They called for an end to bullying, more social workers/counselors in the schools as well as restrictions on high-capacity magazines, assault-style weapons and universal background checks. The students were clear; they are just getting started.”