This was a moment in America.
At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, students all across this state and country walked out of their classes.
In some places, they held hands.
In other places, they prayed.
In many, many places, they wept.
For 17 minutes, they mourned the lives lost to guns not just in Parkland, Florida, but everywhere and everyday here in America.
The day before the students walked out, I talked with some of them over the air.
Brandon Warren, a senior at Warren Central High School, is a young man of exceptional poise. He led the walkout at his school as part of his ongoing efforts to prod his community, state and country to deal with the daily tragedy of gun-related violence.
He said administrators expressed safety concerns about having 4,000 students leave the building in the middle of the school day. He said he understood their worries, so, working with them, he and other organizers modified their plan.
Instead of leaving the school, the 4,000 students walked out into the hallways. There they held hands, forming one long chain of concern for those lost and those threatened.
Afterward, they planned to meet with school administrators, lawmakers and representatives from the mayor’s office in a school-wide assembly to talk about solutions.
Warren said he and his fellow students did this in solidarity with the students in Florida, but also for reasons closer to home.
He and they have lost friends to guns here in Indiana.
They were protesting, he said, because he and they loved their fallen friends and they love “this great country.”
Max Siegel is a senior at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.
He, like Warren, helped organize a protest in consultation with school leaders. The focus of the students at Brebeuf, just as it was at Warren Central and so many other schools, is on helping students find solutions to a national tragedy.
These students say they want the United States to become, once again, a country in which school students’ greatest fear is an upcoming math test, not being shot at their desks or on their way home.
As these young men talk, a couple of things strike me.
The first is that they have tremendous faith in and love for this country. They believe this is a nation in which people of good will can come together, resolve differences, balance interests and find solutions.
They don’t want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
But they also want to see fewer students shot dead in schools in this, their country.
They don’t see those two things as mutually exclusive goals.
The second thing is their polite impatience with the elected officials who are supposed to deal with these problems. Just below the surface of their comments is an implied argument: If the adults aren’t going to do their jobs and push for solutions, then we, the children, will have to.
It is easy to understand their frustration.
Our discussions about how to deal with our national gun problem at both the state and federal levels would have to gain considerable momentum to be at a standstill.
Instead of talking about practical ways we could balance safety concerns with individual gun owners’ rights, we’re conjuring up fantasies about arming teachers to make our children safer.
In the National Rifle Association’s world, we cannot and should not trust trained police officers to protect us, but we can rely on untrained or poorly trained and already overburdened teachers to do the job.
No wonder these kids have grown tired of waiting for us to wake up and meet our responsibilities as rational and responsible adults.
These students just want to bring this discussion back out of the realm of fantasy and tether it to something resembling reality. They want us to deal with our problems, instead of ignoring them.
God bless them.
Students all across this state and country walked out of their classes on Wednesday.
This was a moment in America.
A great moment in America.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.