It took six minutes and 20 seconds for a gunman to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That’s also how long Emma Gonzalez’s March For Our Lives speech and moment of silence lasted.
By now, you’ve likely heard of Emma Gonzalez, one of the ferocious leaders of the movement to end gun violence that came in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 of Gonzalez’s peers and teachers. But today, March 24, she didn’t just want to speak up — she also wanted to remain silent. During the March For Our Lives, which she helped organize, Gonzalez honored those that can no longer speak by standing onstage for a devastatingly emotional 6 minute and 20 seconds, which is also the exact duration of the shooting at her high school in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.
Most of her time was dedicated to a moment of silence, but before falling quiet she detailed how this horrific act of gun violence has forever impacted her entire community. “In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone — absolutely everyone — in the Douglas community was forever altered. Everyone who was there understands. Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands,” she started. “For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing. No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called.”
She went on to repeat the names of each of the victims and the things they would never do again before she stopped speaking altogether. While the teen stood onstage in silence, tears rolled down her cheeks while the crowd looked on. Midway through the silence people started chanting, “Never Again,” until falling quiet once more. After 4 minutes and 25 seconds, a timer went off, and Gonzalez took to the mic once more. “Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as the escape and walk free for an hour before arrest,” she said. “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”