Although it was cold, the sun was out as the third-period school bell broke the silence on West Webster Avenue at around 9:50 in the morning. Soon after, 93 students – along with some teachers and administrators – walked out silently in front of Roselle Park High School. A few were holding signs, many were wearing orange, but the thing that stood out was that there was not a cellphone in sight. If anything gave evidence to the maturity of those who took part in today’s nationwide school walk out, it was that. The lifelines of most teenagers were put away. Wearing orange was inspired by the National Gun Violence Awareness (link) movement which started five years ago.
A little before the appointed hour, Melissa – one of the six organizers for the event – reminded everyone to keep themselves and their phones silent during the observance. Roselle Park Police officers were on-hand to provide security. RPHS Principal Sara Costa, Roselle Park School District Superintendent Pedro Garrido, RPSD Business Administrator Sue Guercio, Board Of Education member Matthew Leingang, and Council-At-Large Joseph DeIorio were also present along with former teachers, parents, and neighbors.
A 10 o’clock, without fanfare, the reading of the names of 17 human beings who were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida a month before on Valentine’s Day began. One by one, the six young women took turns reading one name every minute. Each time the silence was broken, an RPHS student who was holding a sign of the name being mentioned would lift their arms and hold it up in memoriam.
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Was a student at Stoneman Douglas and a soccer player for Parkland Travel Soccer.
“Alyssa Alhadeff was a loved and well-respected member of our club and community,” Parkland Travel Soccer said on Facebook. “Alyssa will be greatly missed.”
Scott Beigel, 35
Was a geography teacher, and was killed as he tried to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting broke out.
Kelsey Friend, one of Beigel’s students, said in an emotional interview that he was shot outside the classroom door and that he saved her life.
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Miguel Duque mourned the loss of his younger brother, Martin, and set up a Go Fund Me page to help pay for funeral expenses.
“He was a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet. He was sweet and caring and loved by all his family. Most of all he was my baby brother,” Miguel said on the page.
Nicholas Dworet, 17
He was recruited for the University of Indianapolis swim team and would have been an incoming freshman this fall.
“Nick’s death is a reminder that we are connected to the larger world, and when tragedy hits in places around the world, it oftentimes affects us at home,” said Robert L. Manuel, University of Indianapolis president.
Aaron Feis, 37
He was an assistant football coach, and was killed when he threw himself in front of students to protect them from oncoming bullets. He suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery.
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” was stated. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Skidmore College, where her father attended, released a statement saying their hearts go out to Jaime’s parents and others affected by the tragedy.
“There really are no words to lessen the suffering that the families of victims are feeling at this moment, but perhaps knowing that we stand with them can provide some small measure of solace,” the college said.
Chris Hixon, 49
He was the school’s athletic director and wrestling coach.
“Every one of those students he thought of as his own kid,” his wife explained.
He would give students rides or lunch money and, if they needed it, open up his home to them. “He just loved being around kids and giving back to the community,” she continued.
Luke Hoyer, 15
His grandmother said, “He was a good kid. He … never got in trouble. He was the last of my daughter’s children who still lived at home.”
Cousin Grant Cox called Luke “an amazing individual. Always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh.
“Our Luke was a precious child.”
Cara Loughran, 14
She danced at the Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida.
“Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face,” the dance studio said in a statement. “We are heartbroken as we send our love and support to her family during this horrible time.”
Gina Montalto, 14
Gina was a member of the winter guard on the school’s marching band.
One of her middle school color guard instructors told The Miami Herald that Gina “was the sweetest soul ever.”
“My heart is broken into pieces. I will forever remember you, my sweet angel,” Manuel Miranda told the paper.
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Joaquin was born in Venezuela, moved to the United States when he was 3 and became a naturalized citizen in January 2017
His interests were football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti and hip-hop
An Instagram post dated December 31 was his final social media post — a message to his girlfriend: “Thank you lord for putting a greater blessing than I could ever imagine into my life this past year,” he said. “I love you with all my heart.”
Alaina Petty, 14
Alaina’s family said she was vibrant and determined. She had volunteered after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September.
“Alaina loved to serve,” the statement from her family said.
She was also a part of the “Helping Hands” program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She was also a member of the junior ROTC at her school, a leadership program taught by retired Army personnel.
Meadow Pollack, 18
She had been accepted to Lynn University
“Meadow was a lovely young woman, who was full of energy. We were very much looking forward to having her join our community in the fall,” D’Aria said.
Friend Gil Lovito said on Facebook: “Please say a prayer for the family of an amazing girl I got to call my best friend growing up Meadow Pollack … her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels. Rest In Peace my beautiful angel.
“You are and forever will be loved.”
Helena Ramsay, 17
“Helena was a smart, kind-hearted, and thoughtful person. She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was some what reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her. She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone.”
Page said he hopes others can be inspired by Helena’s “life well lived, no matter how short.”
Alex Schachter, 14
He participated in the school marching band and orchestra, playing baritone in the former and trombone in the latter
“I felt he really had a bright future on the trombone,” Alexander Kaminsky, director of bands at the Parkland high school, told the paper.
A Go Fund Me page was set up by Alex’s family as a scholarship fund.
“In an effort to continue his memory, this scholarship is being created to help other students experience the joys of music as well as fund increased security at schools. Please help keep Alex’s spirit alive,” the page said. “The money raised will be sent to the Stoneman Douglas Marching Eagles.”
Carmen Schentrup, 16
She was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist.
Carmen was mourned in the community and on social media.
“Rest In Peace Carmen Schentrup,” one tweet said. “Your family is forever in my thoughts and prayers. I’m so sorry.”
Peter Wang, 15
Peter had been a member of the junior ROTC program.
A friend, Kelsey said the two of them were close.
“It’s hard to not have him in the hallways anymore because me and him used to laugh with each other. He used to make me smile. And now he’s gone.”
Kelsey and other friends said Peter was shot while holding a door open to let fellow classmates get to safety. Thousands of people have signed a White House petition asking for him to be buried with military honors.
After the observance, RPHS Principal Sarah Costa stated, “I thought the students that participated were respectful. I was impressed with the students that led it and their tribute to the students that died. I was encouraged to see that so many students took the initiative to get the permission to participate, to stand in the cold and pay tribute to the students that passed and to do so in such a respectful way. I hope things like this help empower our students to understand that their voice is important and they can work to initiate positive change. ”
RPSD Superintendent Pedro Garrido added, “They were so well-behaved and appropriate. It really is encouraging to see our young members of society act with such great dignity and poise when it comes to such an [issue].”
After the last moment of silence, Melissa let those participating know that the 17th minute had passed and everyone could return to their class.
School continued and students went about their day but not after taking a moment to not only exercise their First Amendment rights and to – in silence – take part in a conversation that needs to be had.
Article photograph courtesy and property of the Roselle Park Police Department.
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