By Laurel Busby
While the focus of the student walkout at Palisades High centered on the victims of school shootings, 15-year-old Aicha Traore walked in memory of a survivor.
“There was a girl who lost her best friend” last month in Florida, said Traore, who clasped the hand of her own best friend, Kamryn Strong, 15, as she walked up Bowdoin. “That really touched me. I’m just marching for her.”
The two friends were part of a large, orderly crowd of students that left campus at about 9:20 a.m. and walked up the hill on Bowdoin. They soon spilled onto both sides of the street and reached the top of the hill before pausing. Dozens of students carried signs ranging from “I Want 2 Feel Safe” to “Arms Are For Hugging Not Shooting.”
When queried, the teens expressed varied reasons for joining the protest. Ava Ruggiero, 14, sought “to create a safe community” and “raise awareness” while Brinley Szott, 15, wanted to show solidarity with the students in Florida, “so they know the whole country feels the same way they do.”
For some, gun control was the focus. For example, Shaday Diaz, 18, and Brandon Ramirez, 18, created a sign that said “Guns Don’t Die, Children Do.”
“This quote really spoke to us,” Diaz said. “It’s true. We need gun control. We need guns to not be used to kill more children.”
Students were clearly concerned about the issue because even after the walkout was over and a break period started, hundreds of them gathered on the quad to hear student speakers, who read obituaries about each of the 17 shooting victims at Parkland High School.
After this tribute, the students listened to an array of speakers from local government, including Pacific Palisades Community Council President Maryam Zar and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
Many students also paused to read the obituaries taped to 17 desks in the quad, each decorated with a flower, to commemorate the lives lost.
Teddy Suisman, 16, and his friends, Eli Manheim, 15, and Maximo Speiser, 16, quietly moved from desk to desk reading the obituaries and looking at the accompanying photos. “I could have known these kids,” Suisman said. “The lives that their deaths affected are countless.”