6 Minutes and 20 Seconds That Could Change the World

Joan WalshTwitter, March 24, 2018, The Nation

Thanks to young people, especially those of color, this time might be different.

Parkland high-school-shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez galvanized a student revolt against gun violence with a fiery speech calling out NRA-bought politicians, just a few days after a disturbed young man murdered 17 of her peers—in six minutes and 20 seconds. At Saturday’s March For Our Lives in Washington, Gonzalez galvanized a movement with silence.

She recited the names of all 17 Parkland victims, and then she stood mute, tears streaming down her cheeks, her eyes sometimes closed. The crowd, rooting for the poised young woman with the shaved head and wearing a braided choker, grew confused. A few minutes earlier, a nervous Parkland classmate had actually vomited on stage during her speech, and then recovered with world-class aplomb. “I just threw up on international television and it feels great!” the brave Samantha Fuentes told the crowd. Was Gonzalez having a case of nerves? Next to me, Parkland resident and substitute teacher Debbi Schapiro watched her anxiously, then shook her head and murmured, “This is too much responsibility for these kids.” In the crowd beneath Gonzalez, a few students tried to start the chant “Never again,” but it faded quickly. Spontaneously, they fell silent and simply held high their signs of protest. Behind us, people lifted their cell phones to record the unlikely silence.

Gonzalez finally spoke. “Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds,” she said. “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”


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