It’s often easy to forget that the student activists behind today’s momentous March For Our Lives were just regular high school students only a few short weeks ago. The strength, determination, and articulateness of the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was forged in trauma and gave the students a thick skin to fend off the insults and insinuations from the NRA’s right-wing defenders of the violent status quo.
It’s been a long emotional and difficult trail for the student activists from the day of the shooting to today’s historic march that caps off weeks of organizing, rousing support, and doing everything to communicate their message on any and every available media platform.
With many of the Parkland shooting survivors attending the main rally in Washington DC, today was the culmination of these weeks of effort and a chance to bring their message to a vast assembled crowd. far larger than any one of them ever imagined speaking in front of.
While Emma Gonzalez’s powerful, tear-stained six minutes and twenty seconds of silence during her speech drew accolades from around the world for its emotional impact, it was the speech from fellow survivor Samantha Fuentes that perhaps best symbolizes the Parkland students’ resilience in the face of severe adversity.
Samantha Fuentes may not be the most recognizable of the MSDHS students amongst the activists, but that’s because while many of the other survivors were doing interviews with the press and beginning their organizing activities, she was in the hospital recovering from the wounds she received in the shooting. With shrapnel wounds to her legs and her eye, Fuentes was exceedingly lucky not to be the 18th fatality of the mass shooting spree.
Once she had recovered sufficiently, Fuentes joined her classmates in the fight to ensure that nothing like this would ever happen again. Invited to speak at the March today in front of hundreds of thousands of people and a live TV audience of millions, Fuentes delivered a powerfully emotional speech.
Day in and day out our children are getting shot up, and the moment we speak up, we are scolded that we are not old enough. It as if we need permission to ask our friends not to die. Lawmakers and politicians will scream “guns are not the issue.” but can’t look me in the eye.”
At this point, Fuentes pauses, then gags and proceeds to vomit right at the podium, overcome with the horrific and painful truth of her own words. As CNN discretely cut to a wide shot of the crowd to spare Fuentes the embarrassment of her nauseated episode being broadcast in closeup, the crowd began to clap and loudly cheer encouragement to help the young and firey student recover from the surge of overwhelming emotions that caused her stomach to revolt.
Recover she did. Standing back up from her retching crouch with her friend at her side rubbiing her back for support, Fuentes shouted:
I just threw up on international television— and it feels great! “
She then picked up right where she left off in her speech.
“We’re not asking for a ban, we’re asking for compromise. Forget your sides and colors, let’s save one another. Use efficient regulation that doesn’t make any exception. Close the cracks and the loopholes with thorough background checks and psychological evaluation. Protect our schoools like we do our other government establishments. Use security protocols and methods that are efficient. And one more request… Listen!”
“Our mission is simple, and our visions are unbeatable. Let’s keep the guns out of the hands of the wrong people and keep them in the hands of the safe and the reasonable … so either you can join us or be on the side of history who prioritized their guns over the lives of others.”
It was difficult to watch Fuentes in her forceful and relentless indictment of America’s intransigence in confronting such an obviously loaded issue without one’s own emotions breaking down.
The activist student capped her speech with an even more poignant coda. Noting that today would have been the birthday of her slain classmate Nicholas Dworet, Fuentes asked the crowd to join her in singing “Happy Birthday” to her departed friend, a request that the crowd was happy to comply with.
Samantha Fuentes joins the other Parkland students as a beacon of hope for the future of our country and an inspiration to us all.
You can watch a clip of Fuentes’ speech in the video below.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) March 24, 2018