Where Groton Failed in the #NeverAgain Movement

When Annabelle Mata, a close friend and former teammate of mine, walked into school the morning of February 14th, 2018, she didn’t expect anything other than a normal day of classes. She didn’t expect to hear screaming and gunshots while making Valentine’s Day cards in her freshman English class. She didn’t expect to text her mom that she was okay while praying anxiously that she actually would be. And she certainly didn’t expect to hear that four of her friends—one of whom she had spoken to earlier that day—had died of gunshot wounds.


When I first heard about the Parkland shooting, I was shocked and upset, but I did not immediately connect it to Annie. I met her through a club sports team and only knew that she went to a public school about forty-five minutes away from the pool where we practiced. It wasn’t until I saw on Annie’s Instagram account a tearful farewell to one of her best friends that the Parkland tragedy became that much closer to home.


I immediately reached out to Annie with my condolences but was left with a lingering feeling that I ought to have done more. An opportunity arose with the #NeverAgain movement, which started out as local protests and walkouts led by the Parkland survivors and quickly swept the nation in the forms of town halls and assemblies. However, while my friends from Florida and even Oregon joined their schools to protest for strengthened gun control laws to prevent future shootings, I began to wonder why Groton was not more involved.


Although it is true that a traditional walkout probably would not be extremely effective because of how isolated we are, and that we were away for spring break when the protests occurred, there are still many ways in which Groton could have supported this cause as a community. For example, willing students could have had a chance to attend one of the protests in Boston. At the very least, some show of schoolwide solidarity could have occurred. But none did. At Groton, many pride themselves on being up-to-speed on current events and politically minded, but, in this particular instance, the limitations of the “Groton bubble” seem to have closed us off to becoming a part of an extremely important issue.


Even beyond Groton’s lack of involvement in #NeverAgain, it was almost as if the topic was avoided. Though often discussed by students in the days following the tragedy, the only mention of it came in chapel. Because the Parkland shooting pertains directly to high school students, it seems as though there should have been an almost-immediate push by students to join the youth-led movement.


I don’t believe that it was anyone’s fault in particular, but rather a direct result of how isolated and singularly focused on life on the Groton campus we let ourselves become. When the nearest mall is more than a twenty-minute drive away, it’s easy to forget that there is a world outside of Groton.


It isn’t just Annie or myself who is close to the Parkland shooting: it’s every high schooler in the US who could go to school one day and hear gunshots from a classroom. I hope wholeheartedly that we can still find a way to be a part of the #NeverAgain movement. But if not, the next time an event of this magnitude occurs, I hope that Groton will diminish its distance from the world and become a part of it.