Apathy and Disrespect in the Face of a National Outrage


Olivia Merideth

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Tragedy struck February 14 when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 more. Parkland, Florida., was awakened to an entire new level of grief and hurt, and parents and survivors alike scrambled for solutions. The survivors from Parkland inspired empathy and urgency in Americans’ hearts everywhere. Largely because of their efforts, North Atlanta facilitated the national walkout to honor those who lost their lives in the shooting.

The school’s art department clearly took the lead on the walkout, painting multiple gigantic banners with flowers and “Why We March” on them, alongside colorful flower signs that added a tone of growth and color to the walkout. The student government’s efforts were weighty as well — they worked with the administration to organize the logistics of the walkout and organized the student speeches, made by Chandler Smith, Jessica Milburn and Roya Register, so the walkout could honor the lost students of Parkland in the most respectful way possible.

We had all of this preparation — countless emails from our teachers and administration, assemblies on the dangers of gun violence, constant reiteration of exactly how tragic this was for the families and students of Parkland, Florida. There was all this and yet, a percentage of those assembled on Warrior Field chose to be disrespectful, impossibly rude, and distracted during the walkout.

The point of the walkout was to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting. This had been made aware to us for weeks. During the moment of silence to reflect on the immense loss of life that went on mere weeks ago, our students were laughing, talking, gathered in clumps over crushed banners and flower signs. Although this is bad in general given the nature of the walkout, it was especially uncalled for during Jessica Milburn’s and Roya Register’s speeches, and the moment of silence Rieley Martin issued in respect for our murdered peers. “I was surprised that people weren’t taking this more seriously,” said junior Fisher Calame. “I couldn’t hear most of the speeches over the noise of my peers in the back, which I was pretty annoyed about because I was up in the front shooting.”

Junior Samaira Wilson echoed Calame’s sentiment. Wilson, who was a part of the art class who did so much to create symbolic flowers, said for her the matter was almost personal. “We had made all this effort and put all this heart into our art, and I was so heartbroken, especially for those in Parkland, that some just disregarded all of our efforts. It makes the entire movement seem so easily blown off, and I hate that,” she said.

Some students even chose not to attend. Blaming it on the cold or the amount of homework they had to catch up on — but who cares about homework if we’re going to get shot anyway — students crowded in the cafeteria, leaving those who actually care about the well-being of our peers to go it alone. I think it’s crazy that our peers, who have grown up in the midst of this tragic issue — from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Parkland — would just choose to casually refuse to take any opportunity to fight back. It’s just surprising, you know? How far peoples’ apathy goes. To the point where they couldn’t care less about this epidemic. About our safety. About yours.