Parkland survivors: ‘The school shooting changed our lives, and young people flooded the polls to change America’

Students and supporters from the March for Our Lives movement gather at voter-registration table.
Students and supporters from the March for Our Lives movement gather at voter-registration table. abcnews.go.com

Tuesday, young voters all across America made history. Our generation came out in record numbers to vote. For that, we are forever thankful to all those who showed up and made their voices heard.

Two hundred and sixty-seven days ago, our lives were forever changed, and the seeds of our movement were planted. On what was supposed to be an ordinary day, we became victims, and now survivors, of the worst school shooting in American history. In an instant, our high school and our community became another member of an ever-growing club of mass-shooting survivors. Seventeen of our classmates and teachers were gunned down in a brutal massacre.

Two hundred and twenty-eight days ago, we marched on Washington and in 800 sibling marches all across the country because we had to. We refused to be another anecdote in the bloody history of violence in our nation, innocent children killed in their own classrooms. We marched because our so-called political leaders failed to protect us, silenced by the piles of money hand-delivered to their campaigns by the NRA.

One hundred and forty-five days ago, we embarked on the Road To Change tour. For 63 days over the summer, we traveled to over 100 communities around the nation and hosted town hall discussions, talked with gun violence survivors and youth leaders, and registered tens of thousands of voters.

Twelve days ago, we began the Vote For Our Lives tour in Minneapolis. We visited more than 15 college campuses in states across the country where young people were the deciding factor in elections. From Miami to Houston, all the way to Irvine, young people are fired up more than ever, ready to participate in the political discussion.

We, alongside millions of students around the nation, have changed the culture around voting. We have turned thousands of non-voters into life-long voters, simply by starting real, honest conversations that reveal the importance of a single vote.

Now, so many days later, as we wake up on this new day, we see the results we’ve fought so tirelessly for. Last night’s election was a victory. Not because of any one candidate — though there are many to be excited about. Last night was a victory because young people showed up in record numbers and demanded an end to the violence in our schools, our streets, our communities, our places of worship, our movie theaters, our sports stadiums, our workplaces, our yoga studios.

This time, the young people of our country showed our power in the polling places. In Texas, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona, voters aged 18-29 showed up early and big.

In the time since the shooting at our high school, we’ve had countless conversations with those who agree with us and those who don’t. We’ve learned that, by sharing our experiences and learning from others, we can reach common ground (something our politicians don’t seem capable of doing).

Yesterday, we made history and proved that young people have a pivotal voice in changemaking.

Today, the next phase of our movement begins. We will continue to create a more engaged youth, that will make for a more educated country. But we must also hold those we’ve elected accountable.

We call on the new Congress to immediately address the issue of gun violence in America. If the president refuses, then Congress must pass veto-proof legislation that will protect all Americans.

The people have voted, now Washington must act.

Jaclyn Corin and Delaney Tarr are student activists and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018. They are co-founders of March For Our Lives.