Washington, United States | AFP | Florida high school student Aalayah Eastmond will join a massive crowd of Americans — expected to number in the hundreds of thousands — taking part in nationwide protests for gun control on Saturday.
The 17-year-old says she will be marching not only for tougher gun laws — but for the classmate whose body she hid beneath during last month’s massacre at her school.
“Columbine happened — nothing’s changed. Sandy Hook happened — nothing’s changed. Parkland happened — nothing’s changed,” Eastmond said Thursday.
“The march is just the start,” she said at an event with lawmakers, prosecutors and members of law enforcement on Capitol Hill.
The best birthday gift I could ever ask for! I love them soooo much! Speaking with them was like speaking to brothers and sisters. They have gone through so much within their community due to gun violence, and I’m so happy to be marching the streets of Washington with them! pic.twitter.com/Ia6S9SEatc
— Aalayah Eastmond (@AalayahEastmond) March 23, 2018
“We will fight for this until change happens.”
Fourteen students and three adult faculty members were killed on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland by a troubled 19-year-old former classmate armed with a semi-automatic rifle.
Students at the school in southern Florida are the driving force behind the “March For Our Lives,” which is to be held on Saturday in Washington and other US cities.
The event is expected to be the largest-ever protest for gun control in the United States, where there are more than 30,000 gun-related deaths a year.
Organizers say more than 800 marches are being held across the country and around the world under the slogan #NeverAgain — the Washington event alone is expected to attract at least 500,000 people.
Eastmond was in a Holocaust history class when Nikolas Cruz sprayed bullets into her classroom shortly before school was due to end on Valentine’s Day.
She hid under the body of Nicholas Dworet, a 17-year-old senior who had been planning to attend the University of Indianapolis in the fall.
“No student should have to cover themselves with a deceased classmate to survive,” said the teenager with oversized glasses and long dreadlocks.
“I was that student.”
– ‘I got my baby back’ –
Eastmond’s mother, Stacey-Ann Llewellyn, who will be marching with her daughter in Washington on Saturday, said lawmakers need to tighten gun laws now.
“I want to be able to send my daughter to school and be at work and not get a phone call and hear shots in the background,” Llewellyn said.