A month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, several members of a high school youth group from First Baptist Church in Duluth, Georgia, sat down with reporter Maina Mwaura.
We wanted to know what your average teen in youth group thought about the shooting and how they were handling it. The conversation both surprised and saddened us. At times lighthearted and encouraging, and other times heavy, the students waded through their reaction to the shooting, the fall out they witnessed on social media, and how they and their friends are responding to school walkouts and protests.
Maina Mwaura: “When you first heard about Parkland High School and what took place there, what did you think of?”
Andres: “I was devastated…It was really upsetting to hear that…I thought there was something to do about it but when you think about it there isn’t a lot that you can do about it. Having a gun, it’s the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. If we were to take away guns, it’s basically impossible because one, you have the people who legally have guns, don’t do anything—they have it, it’s set, they’re right in their own way but they don’t want their guns taken away because maybe they do have that one point in their lives when they need it. And then also there’s the illegal guns, which people don’t know about and people don’t know that people have illegal guns and how are you going to be able to take those away; are you going to raid everybody’s house and make sure they don’t have guns? It’s a long process but not only that, it costs a lot of money for the government to be able to raid people’s houses or whatever you’re going to do and to look for guns. There’s big problems with what’s going on today in society and I think, I don’t know what to do, but it’s definitely really upsetting to hear about a freedom that we have that’s gone wrong.”
Maina: “Let’s go back to February 14th, which was a month ago today. Where were you at and what did you think about when you heard what was going on?”
Rylee: “When it first happened I happened to have on my phone, I have the news app on and it’s Fox News and I was actually sitting in my language arts class and when the notification popped up that a shooting had happened in Florida, and when I looked at my phone I was like, Oh my gosh! First of all it’s Valentine’s Day, second of all it also happened to be Ash Wednesday and I was just, I was absolutely in shock. At the time I didn’t know much about what had happened but I just didn’t know what to do and in that moment I didn’t feel safe where I was sitting. This whole thing about, oh gosh, this is real, this could happen to me, just kind of set over me. And for the next couple of days I just didn’t feel safe stepping into the school building at all.”
Maina: “What are your friends thinking about? When it comes to this issue of school gun violence, especially the day of, not feeling safe, what were your friends thinking?”
Rylee: “My friends at school are kind of all over the border and some of them were ‘on my side’ and they were like ‘oh my goodness, this actually happened and this was a thing.’ And some of them were more focused on lives were actually lost but I still feel safe at school because this could never happen to me. So that was just kind of across the board. We all were sort of paranoid, some more than others, but we were all pretty much devastated.”
Maina: “Did you guys notice a sense of change the next day, let’s go to February 15th, did you notice a change in the air at school? Yeah? What did that feel like?”
Tyler: “I think that it was, I don’t know how to describe it, it was just a sense of like tenseness and we didn’t know what to do. It’s like, that just happened and 17 lives were just lost and at my school, Duluth is an open campus so we’re walking pretty much in the streets half the day transitioning to classes, in and out of buildings, so I feel like a lot of people at my school specifically were very frustrated, we didn’t know what to do like we’re on an open campus, somebody could walk onto our campus a lot easier in our school than on a lot of others. And so I guess, I don’t know, in the air there was just a tenseness, we were all paranoid, like that happened. Florida is not super close but Florida is closer to home than California is and seeing it happen and seeing it that traumatic and that medialized, is that a word? I don’t know. Just seeing it all over social media, seeing it just plastered everywhere just put everyone into a shocked sense and they really didn’t know what to do, how to work with it, how to figure it out, how to deal with what was going on.”