By Nacey Fernandez, Senior
I got home from school on Wednesday afternoon and immediately got into bed after what felt like the longest week ever. I never knew Valentine’s Day could be such a stressful holiday loaded with NHS’s Valentine’s Day Friendship Grams, the GSA Mock Weddings, and SHAPE’s Valentine’s Day Concert—I was surprised my head didn’t exploded! Since it was finally Valentine’s Day, all the stress and anxiety of the past week or so was finally over… or so I thought.
I woke up from my three-hour nap and did what I always did… checked Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter only to find there had been a shooting… The last thing I wanted to see or think about was death—especially because it was Valentine’s Day, a day that’s supposed to be about love. It was something that hit way too close to home. Parkland is just an hour drive from Miami. It could have been my best friends. It could have been my cousins. It could have been me. I tried to avoid all the sorrow and despair of the situation, but I couldn’t escape it.
The next morning on the way to school, my mom and I had a discussion on my feelings about the situation. She asked me questions about supporting or opposing gun control and what I think the legislators should do. My answer to her: as a 17 year old child, I shouldn’t be expected to know how to solve the problem, let alone solve it myself. Our bittersweet conversation continued as she started to ask me what safe spaces I have at my school. The more I thought about it, the more worried I became. iPrep’s unconventional structure, although progressive and modern, isn’t exactly designed for an emergency scenario like what took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. I wasn’t so worried about an intruder from outside getting in, but rather someone from inside the school (who will know about the few secure spaces we have and our code red procedures). Although the shooter at MSD was no longer a student there, he was a former student, and this made my anxiety and worry grow substantially.
As I arrived at school Thursday morning—13 minutes late because my mom didn’t even want to let me go to school in the first place—I walked into a classroom full of my peers and Ms. Keller discussing the previous days events, as well as emergency code red procedures and where we would go in the case of such an emergency. At this point I was growing nauseous and excused myself to the restroom where I proceeded to have a panic attack and started to tear up a bit. I hate letting people see me cry, so I immediately wiped my face and headed back to the classroom. Once we were dismissed from class, I went to a breakout room, and tried to breath and gather my thoughts as best as possible. Although extremely overwhelmed, I held it together until Jada and N’agelie walked over and asked me if I was okay. I broke down on the spot. I was bawling like I’ve never bawled before. I was scared—terrified even. For the first time ever, I did not feel safe in my school environment; this feeling was an absolutely disgusting one that I never wanted myself or anyone to EVER feel again.
I decided to take my fear, anger, anxiety, and worry that was overwhelming me so badly, and turn it into something productive. I realized that even though as a 17 year old I’m not expected to know how to solve the problem, if I don’t take the actions to incite change for myself, no one ever will. I used my newfound energy to organize our school’s first walkout on Wednesday, February 21st and will continue to participate in any events relating to gun control and gun reform. If you didn’t participate in the walkout, below is a short video recap of the speech I gave.
In addition, I will also be participating in the national school walkout on March 14th, a student panel to express my feelings on gun control on March 23rd, and the Miami (chapter) of the nationwide march on March 24th. I encourage you all to participate in any way possible, as this affects you all directly. We can’t let the #NeverAgain movement lose momentum or extinguish. I’m a firm believer in standing up for what you believe in, and I believe that we need to be the change we will see.