The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. was “just a very powerful and a very emotional thing” for C. Milton Wright High School senior Kiera Fyffe, who took part in the event with friends and neighbors.
“It honestly surpassed my expectations,” the 18-year-old Bel Air resident said Sunday.
Fyffe said she has participated in two other marches in the nation’s capital in the past year — the Women’s March held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration last January and then the March for Racial Justice on Sept. 30, 2017 — but Saturday’s march was “just a little different” because it was led by students.
Marchers flooded Pennsylvania Avenue, the site of the day’s rally. They could hear speeches from survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., as well as remarks from many other young survivors of gun violence.
Participant Mary Jane Price, of Havre de Grace, said Tuesday that she understands the purpose was the march against gun violence.
“To me, it wasn’t a march against anything,” she said. “It was a rally of love for our young people.”
Price coordinated a 47-person group of adults and youths from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County, based in Churchville, to go to the march.
Price is the adult adviser for the congregation’s Junior Youth Group.
“You could just feel it,” she said of the atmosphere at the march. “It was all about honoring and uplifting young people and supporting them.”
Fyffe praised how the event focused on not only school shootings but violence happening in urban areas such as Chicago and Baltimore, “because it shows the bigger picture.”
“It just shows how many guns are in the streets and how many wrong hands they’re falling into; so it was nice to hear those stories and see the faces of the people actually affected,” she said.
Fyffe and her companions arrived in Washington about two hours before the noon start of the march. They could not get onto Pennsylvania Avenue for the rally because of the crowds, though, so they ended up in front of the Newseum nearby, watching the speeches on television monitors.
“You could not see any end of the crowd, and you were pretty much stuck where you were until the end,” Fyffe said. “There was no getting out of that crowd — it was just huge.”
Sarah Bateman, another CMW senior, said she and her friends got “decently close to the stage,” although her view was blocked by police trucks.
She said she could hear the speeches “perfectly,” though, and she could see the speakers on a television monitor.
“I feel that it was really empowering, but also really emotional at the same time,” Bateman, 17, of Bel Air, said of the event.
She recalled Stoneman Douglas survivor Emma Gonzalez, a leader in the youth movement for gun control and reform, standing on stage in silence for more than six minutes to remember her slain classmates.
“The power in her silence really impacted people,” Bateman said.
Price, of the Unitarian fellowship, said “you could hear a pin drop among 800,000 people” during Gonzalez’ moment of silence.
“We all just waited with her, whatever she needed to get through those moments and have those moments to honor those kids, it was unbelievable.”
Bateman said she was also affected by speeches from 16-year-old Chicago student Mya Middleton, who talked about her experience of being threatened at gunpoint by a man who was vandalizing her neighborhood store, a man who said he would find her if she talked about the incident.
“There she was, speaking up,” Bateman said.
Bateman reflected on “these kids that are part of the fight and how courageous they are and how they are, in a way, putting themselves in danger but doing it for what they believe is right.”
“I marched for everyone that can be affected by gun violence,” Bateman said. “I marched to show my support for the fight [for gun control and reform].”
She recalled a childhood friend whose father was shot and killed. Bateman said she has not talked with her friend since middle school, but the memory “definitely came to mind when I was at the march and why all of this has been going on.”
“After the march, I have been thinking about writing a book about my thoughts and feelings,” she said.
Fyffe said the speech by Yolanda Renee King, the 9-year-old granddaughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., “was a really special moment as well.”
Yolanda King spoke to the crowds on the Mall nearly 55 years after her late grandfather delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to those who marched on Washington for civil rights in the summer of 1963.
“I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period!” King’s granddaughter said.
She also led the crowd in a cheer of “Spread the word/Have you heard/All across the nation/We/Are going to be/A great generation.”
“When she was saying we were going to be this great generation, it was a really powerful moment,” Fyffe said.
She said her ongoing post-march activities will include encouraging people to register to vote and then vote this year and in the presidential election of 2020, keeping track of elected representatives to see who is “voting in our interest and which are voting in the interest of the NRA,” plus “continuing to raise awareness and things of that nature.”
“The big reminder at the march was that none of this matters if you don’t vote,” Fyffe said.
Price said the youths who went to the march will lead the Unitarians’ regular Sunday service on April 8. They will show photos and sing, as well.
“For our kids to have lived that moment in history, we couldn’t have asked for more in our efforts to have them become responsible and committed adult citizens,” she said.