Students gather for vigil in honor of Parkland shooting victims

President Joseph Joyner readies to lead a crowd of students on a silent march around campus in honor of the lives lost in Parkland last month. Photo: Katie Garwood

By Katherine Hamilton |

The amber glow of candlelight flickered against the solemn faces of Flagler College students as they participated in a vigil and silent march for the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting just one month after its occurrence.

The night became an opportunity for students and adults to express their support of the victims’ friends and family, as well as a chance to voice their desire for change. President Joseph Joyner’s speech was among those voices as he spread a new and unique call to action.

Joyner ultimately made his point when he quoted Ryan Petty, the father of one of the children killed in the shooting:

“Instead of walking out on March 14, encourage students to walk up,” he said. “Walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group. Walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room, sit next to her, smile and say ‘hi.’ Walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask him how he’s doing. Walk up to your teachers and thank them, walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them. You may be surprised how much you have in common. Build on that foundation instead of casting stones. So, I challenge you to find 14 students and three adults to walk up to and say something nice in honor of those who died at Stoneman-Douglas.”

Overall, Joyner asked that as students walk around campus everyday and go about their lives, that they think about how they can impact the lives of others.

“So the answer is—every day we sit in the dining hall and we see people sitting by themselves. Every day we walk by sad faces here at school. That’s something that you can do,” Joyner said. “So, the solution isn’t policy alone, although that’s important. It’s also us. It’s building relationships. It’s caring about each other.”

Before he began to tell the students what the “Walk-Up” initiative is, he prefaced by saying that he waited to talk about it because he wanted students to participate in the walk-out earlier that day. He doesn’t see the walk-up initiative as a replacement, but rather as a supplement to current demonstration and action.

The evening began with three speakers, Dr. Darien Andreu, an english professor at Flagler; Victor Gonzalez, assistant director of admissions; and Joyner. After the speeches, the students and adults lit their candles and began a silent march around the campus, followed by a Glee Club performance of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.

The entire night was organized by Flagler College student, Cate Donohue, a member of Student Government Association’s Public Service Committee. She said SGA already had a desire to do an event for the Parkland shooting, so when a Flagler student from the Parkland area contacted the vice president, they knew they had to do something.

“The purpose of this event—we really wanted students to come together to remember those who lost their lives in Parkland, commemorate them and honor them and just as a community recognize something we need to acknowledge and remember. Even though it’s now a month to the date, we aren’t forgetting, and we are still keeping these people on our minds,” Donohue said.

People in attendance saw the vigil and march as a time for reflection, acknowledgment and change. Student Allison Davis noted how vulnerable these shootings make students feel all across the United States.

“It is scary, and even in high school to it was something that was pretty frightening. I just hoped it wouldn’t happen. I mean even now there is a chance that it could happen, but I think it’s good that we are out here saying, ‘Hey, we need a change,”’ Davis said.

Another student, Brooklyn O’Brien, thinks that events like these demonstrate where the nation stands as a whole.

“[Students should participate] to show their voice,” O’Brien said. “We do get to vote, but that’s only a few times a year if even. This is a good was to show America what we are feeling, and that we are passionate, and that we do have opinions, and we do feel there needs to be change.”

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