With so many school shootings happening lately and right around graduation time, it must be so hard to celebrate the next chapter in life when others are either dead or mourning the death of a loved one.
Two recent school shootings, which occurred within a week of each other, proved to be particularly emotional for the country after it was revealed two students from the different events felt as if they had to step in and stop the shooter. Both students ultimately were murdered because of their bravery.
A high school graduate honored shooting victims by having their names displayed through a QR code on her cap.
Gina Warren used her graduate cap as an opportunity to inform guests about school shooting victims that didn’t get the chance to walk on stage and get their diploma.
The 18-year-old teen from Ohio put the names of high school students who died beginning from the shooting at Columbine in 1999 up to last week’s shooting in Colorado that had Kendrick Castillo as the latest victim.
Since there are so many high school victims, Warren used a QR code so people could scan it and read the list in its entirety.
“I wanted to make something just as powerful as a statement, but rather than direct it to lawmakers or the NRA, I wanted to direct it to everyone who will see it,” Warren told BuzzFeed News.
She added that she didn’t include high school victims that were shot in movie theaters or at church. There are just too many victims to include.
She said her cap isn’t meant to be political but more so a statement on our country’s major gun issues.
“I hope anyone who sees how many names there are would think there is a problem,” she told the news site. “I’m not telling you how you should vote or what you should think — I’m telling you there’s a problem,” Warren said. “Whatever you think could make our country safer, you need to have a voice about it.”
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We’ve come to the point in American history where deaths due to gun violence have become what many would call a crisis. According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, guns were responsible for more deaths than car accidents were. So it comes to no surprise when certain activists take it upon themselves to bring attention to what many label an epidemic. On Wednesday, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a non-profit organization founded with the goal of “protecting children from gun violence with programs that work”, did just that. The NPO released a short video, titled “Back-To-School-Essentials” that made waves through the internet.
The video begins exactly the way so many back-to-school commercials start: discussing the coolest new gadgets to buy for your kids this Fall.
A smiling boy pulls a backpack out of a locker, bragging that his mom got him the “perfect bag for back to school”. A young girl shows off the colorful binders that are “just what she needs to help her stay organized” for the school year. But things take an odd turn with the third student. As the student describes his headphones as “just what [he] needs for studying”, we can see that not all is quite right in the background. As the boy listens to his music, oblivious, we see students running in the behind him, appearing to be panicked.
As the commercial wears on, it becomes even eerier when students are speaking carefree to the camera while scenes of carnage unfold around them. The commercial wears on with each scenario becoming eerier: a girl uses her sweater to bar a door shut, keeping an active shooter out of the gymnasium. A different student uses her new socks as a tourniquet to keep a bleeding student alive. The video ends on a chilling note: a young girl hides in a bathroom stall, tears running down her face. The camera closes up on her as we hear an active shooter enter the bathroom. “I love you, Mom,” she types into her phone.
The video ends with a simple title-card over a black screen: “School shooting is preventable when you know the signs.”
The PSA then directs the viewer to find out more about the organization at sandyhookpromise.org. According to Sandy Hook Promise’s About page, the “above-the-politics” organization is made up of “several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012”. Their mission is to “honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation”. Their main action-items are to target mental health programs to individuals who are “at-risk” at engaging in gun violence and by advocating for policy changes in order to prevent school shootings.
As of now, the video has racked up over 1 million views on YouTube in under 24 hours.
The virality of the PSA is likely due to its execution: we’re all used to seeing vacuous back-to-school commercials whose sole intentions are to sell us something. “Back-To-School Essentials” lulls us into a sense of comfort with its upbeat music before jerking us into the current violent reality of school-aged students’ lives. According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in the country, the US has had 283 mass shootings since September 1st of 2019.
The video isn’t without controversy–some Twitter users are disturbed by how close to home the video’s scenarios are.
In fact, many viewers are finding the PSA hard to watch. On Twitter, users are complaining of tearing up after watching the video. Some even claim to “feeling sick” by the video’s contents.
In response, some Twitter users are glad of the reality-check the PSA is providing:
It’s evident that making their audience uncomfortable from watching the video was one of the organization’s goals. That way, it makes it harder to ignore the reality of school shootings and their impact on children’s lives.
This woman explained how the video hit a little too close to home:
It seems we’ve come to the point in our culture where we feel we need to buy phones for our children in the event that they experience a school shooting.
This Twitter user applauded the Sandy Hook Promise Organization’s bravery in committing to their message:
Sometimes the only way to get your point across is to explain, in the starkest terms possible, how dire the situation is. This video managed to convey that in a powerful way.
This Latina was effected by the PSA on a visceral level:
Reactions like this prove that public service announcements, when done right, can achieve exactly what they set out to achieve.
Simply from the Twitter reaction, it’s clear that this video has touched a lot of people.
To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise and its mission to prevent gun violence, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org.
First, the Latino community was gunned down in a terror attack at an El Paso Walmart. The terrorist was an alleged White Nationalist who decried the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas, echoing the exact words used by our president and, to be fair, many other Republican politicians.
But now, it’s also been reported that undocumented victims of the attack refused to seek medical care for fear that they may be deported. Not only was our community attacked but the country’s anti-Latino rhetoric is putting lives at an even greater risk.
CNN first reported that some victims of the attack were too afraid to go to hospitals and medical centers thinking they could be deported.
On CNN, for example, the former assistant secretary of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem noted that according to authorities, it was “clear that there are people who are not reunifying with their family, and there are people they’re worried did not go to hospitals because of their immigration status.”
MSNBC also tweeted that “Hope Border Institute is asking to spread word to reach out to them if you, or someone you know, are a migrant and afraid to come forward in relation to the El Paso mass shooting attack, such as being injured or trying to find family members.”
The Hope Border Institute tweeted support for the community and assured them not to be afraid to seek medical care.
The organization stepped up to help undocumented community when our own government wasn’t saying a word. In their tweet, the organization said: “If you are afraid to contact the authorities regarding the shooting because of your immigration status, please contact Hope Border Institute, and we will help you.”
Many couldn’t believe that something like that even had to be shared.
When people have been harassed and targets of hateful rhetoric and then victims of a terror attack, the last thing they should be worrying about is their legal status. There’s no confirmation if any of the victims who were too afraid to seek medical care have died but just the idea that it was possible, was enough to piss off a lot of people on social media.
Perhaps realizing that people could be dying out of fear of deportation, Border Patrol released a statement.
The West Texas wing of U.S. Customs and Border Protection tweeted: “We are not conducting enforcement operations at area hospitals, the family reunification center or shelters. We stand in support of our community.”
Still, the episode offers a glimpse into what it’s like to live with the persistent burden of being undocumented in America: Not only does it inject a steady hum of anxiety into daily life thanks to discrimination and fear of deportation, but it also severely limits people’s access to resources in times of crisis.
The tweet from CBP made a lot of people on social media very angry and many called our the agency.
I mean, a federal law enforcement agency shouldn’t have to reassure people who were just victims of a terror attack that they won’t face arrest and detention for going to the hospital.
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