My name is Maya Lubarsky and I am a senior at the University of Miami, but I am also a 2014 alum of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. High school isn’t easy for anyone. It is a time when your body is changing, your ideals are forming and you are learning about your passions. I will not lie and say that I had a perfect four years of high school, I doubt anyone did, but 17 of my peers were not murdered before my eyes. Stoneman Douglas made me who I am today.
I marched because my little sister is in middle school and she deserves to go to school excited to learn, not afraid of never returning home. I marched because I don’t ever want someone to march again in honor of a life lost. There should be no more lives lost. I marched to tell my representatives that if they don’t fight to protect us, we will vote them out.
I heard about the shooting while at work. I received a text from another Douglas alum who attends UM. I could not believe what she was saying, “There is a shooting at Douglas.”
I live walking distance from Douglas and my little sister attends the neighboring middle school. I was scared for my family and I felt broken as news continued to emerge about the shooting. I was sitting at work and I could not stop checking the news and could not stop myself from crying. Parkland and Coral Springs are small communities; the shooter was caught outside my neighborhood, outside my home.
In the wake of the shooting, I was upset, but I was also mad. How could someone, a young student, get his hands on such a destructive weapon and use it to break my hometown?
I immediately decided to plan a Vigil at the University of Miami to honor the lives lost and to allow for my peers to grieve and express their pain. The Douglas alumi at UM have not remained close, but we immediately made a chat and reached out to everyone we knew who attended Douglas, bringing us closer together.
Following the vigil, I began organizing and planning the March for Our Lives in Miami along with Catherine Zhao, Makayla Manning, Brandon Chou and Raven Bedford, as well as two seniors from Miami Beach Senior High School. I decided that there needed to be a March for Our Lives in Miami. When I realized that I would not be able to attend the march in D.C., I also realized that thousands in South Florida would also probably not be unable to attend. I wanted a march in Miami so that those who wanted to show their support and lend their voices to the cause could.
This cause is personal to me, but it is also a cause that the youth of our country have created to honor the lives taken by all forms of gun violence. I wanted to create a platform for people to speak and march, and to show the students from my high school that Miami stands with them.
The organizing and planning of this march was one of the hardest and most time intensive things I have ever done, it was a full time commitment. For the past month I have barely slept, answering sometimes upwards to 50 emails and phone calls a day, organizing and planning, and working hard to get the word out about the march. I regret none of it. The Mayor of Miami Beach, Mayor Gelber, and the City of Miami Beach, along with hundreds of people around the country worked tirelessly to support us.
The day of the march was one I will never forget. The organizers, including myself, left the University of Miami at 5:30 a.m. We arrived at the march and it was non-stop setup, speaking, organizing and moving. Marching alongside our elected officials and my peers who helped me organize this was the most rewarding feeling.
Speaking before almost 5,000 people who came to show their respect for my high school and support this cause was inspiring and I will never forget it. Nationally, some of my best friends were attending or planning marches of their own. It was a uniting and amazing experience.
While this was all brought about by tragedy, I hope that these marches lead to change. Change may not occur today or tomorrow, but by speaking up and standing up we have shown our elected officials that they are here to represent their constituents, not their pockets. As the NRA spews lies and twists the words of teenagers and young adults, we continue to stand up not for ourselves, but for the lives of our peers and community members. We stand for change, for gun reform, and for protecting the lives of our future, our children. #NeverAgain.