Put aside differences

The people of Parkland were not as fortunate as I was my freshman year at Manchester West High School. Although we practiced a variety of safety procedures every year since kindergarten, nothing could have prepared us for the real situation. Not a single shot was ever fired in Manchester, but we knew there was someone in the school believed to have entered with a rifle. Having been in this situation, I have a small understanding of the kind of terror the children in Parkland felt on Feb. 14.

Imagine you’re sitting in a classroom. You’re taking notes when suddenly you hear what sounds like firecrackers. Your teacher sprints to the door to lock it and yells for your classmates to close the blinds. You and your classmates huddle in the corner. You don’t know what’s going on, but the terrified look on your teacher’s face makes you fear the worst. You’re wrought with anxiety as you curl closer to your friend.

You hear more pops; this time they’re closer and accompanied by blood-curdling screaming. You realize what’s happening. Those aren’t firecrackers. You fight back tears and shaky hands as you text your parents. You thank them. You apologize to them. You tell them you love them as gunshots continue to sound off.

An hour later, you’re running into your parents’ comforting embrace, but 17 others weren’t met with the same fortunate fate. You get yourself home, the end of the most traumatic day of your life, and then it begins. People begin the argument. Some are screaming your tragedy shouldn’t be politicized, while others claim it’s time to take all guns off of the streets.

You cannot fully understand the impact of a situation like this until you’re in it. You will not understand the fear until you hear the piercing cacophony of screams, cries and gunshots. You will not feel the terror until you reluctantly press send on an alarming “I love you” text message. You cannot fathom the hopelessness until you cling to your best friend as you sob for your lives. I don’t know what the solution is, but what I do know is that this is not the time for partisanship. Stop pushing ideology and do your job: Serve the people. Listen to the victims from Florida. Hear them!

We have become so divided as a nation, so blinded by partisanship, that the argument has become more important than lives being lost. Put aside your political differences and think about the lives of your children. We are all Americans and, therefore, have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Partisan politics are not more important than our lives. In 2018 alone, 19 people have died and 28 have been injured by gun violence in schools. I refuse to continue sitting idly by while innocent people die as a result of preventable massacres. It is time for reform; I implore you to do something to start protecting your fellow Americans’ right to live.