Something was different about the mass shooting this week in Parkland, Florida, in which 14 students and three adults were killed.
It was not only the death toll. The mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High became the deadliest high-school shooting in American history (edging out Columbine, which killed 13 in 1999).
What made Parkland different were the people who stepped forward to describe it. High-school students—the survivors of the calamity themselves—became the voice of the tragedy. Tweets that were widely reported as coming from the students expressed grief for the victims, pushed against false reports, and demanded accountability.
We are too young to be losing friends like this.— Javi 🥀 (@Javier_Lovera__) February 15, 2018
On television, on social media, they were unignorable. Many of them called for legislation to address the violence.
“We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done,” David Hogg, a student who survived the killing, told CNN.
Another student was more pithy:
As the death toll rose, survivors leapt into the debate. When President Trump tweeted his condolences to the victims, and then said that neighbors and classmates should always report “bad and erratic behavior ... to authorities,” one student responded directly to him:
She later deleted that tweet and said:
@realDonaldTrump hello I’m the 16 year old girl who tweeted you that I didn’t want your condolences, I wanted gun control, and went viral because of it. I heard you are coming to my community soon. I would love for you to hear my opinions on gun control in person.— sarah // #NEVERAGAIN (@sarahchad_) February 16, 2018
- a survivor
When the conservative pundit Tomi Lahren demanded that “the left ... let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gun-owner agenda,” the same survivors, who knew the victims, responded in kind:
A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented. Please stfu tomi https://t.co/qNo03ZE3Ev— kyra (@longlivekcx) February 15, 2018
I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren't there, you don't know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns. https://t.co/XnzhvuN1zd— carly (@car_nove) February 15, 2018
it is actually about guns u witch from hell https://t.co/mva3qYu0Tc— nikki (@nikta04) February 15, 2018
It all seems like a new phenomenon. After Sandy Hook, the victims’ parents became their de facto advocates, a role they still hold. And in the wake of a mass shootings that targets adults, usually victims’ husbands, wives, parents, or adult children speak for them. But this is the largest high-school shooting in the social-media age—so it centers on adolescents, who can discuss and understand the tragedy as adults but who are as blameless for it as children.