WASHINGTON, D.C.—I was walking in the general direction of Capitol Hill on Saturday when I made a call for myself. I’d long since lost track of the people with whom I’d been walking, and the closer we got to Capitol Hill along Pennsylvania Avenue, the thicker the crowds became until it was virtually impossible to see anything at all except the person in front of you and the people on either side. Anyway, being basically trapped, I made the call about which way the reporting of the March For Our Lives was going to go.
Not even the ones I like. Not even the ones with whom I agree. (These groups are not the same, by the way.) Not if they picked me up and carried me around on their shoulders. Not if they came and sat in my lap. No politicians. Not this day. This day was for everybody else and this day was for politicians—all politicians—to take a seat and listen. Because this day was nothing if it was not a massive condemnation of general political malpractice, a case that already had gone to the jury too many times, and a case on which the jury had come back too many times, and now it was the politicians who had to sit there, quietly, and listen to a nation’s victim-impact statement. No, there would be no talking to politicians on Saturday. I didn’t want to distract them from hearing what they needed to hear.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was everywhere in the swelling crowd—students, alumni, teachers and coaches, football jerseys and baseball caps, theater kids and wideouts. The massive turnout was marbled throughout with the people most immediately touched by the country’s most recent massacre. I walked along with Amanda Koplovitz, an MSD senior who, back on Valentine’s Day, had spent several hours in a closet in the theater building across from the freshman building that Nikolas Cruz was turning into a killing ground. She stayed in there for two hours. Amanda had come to Washington with a friend. “This,” she said, gesturing toward the crowd around her, “started almost immediately. We started talking to each other and everything came together like you see.” She still can remember every second of every minute, and every minute of every hour. “I didn’t see my phone for two weeks,” she said. “That was the least of my worries, though.”
As I wandered through the crowd, I noticed something else: signs declaring some of the participants in the march to be from the other national stations of the cross. Columbine. Newtown. The Pulse nightclub. Two guys from Northern Illinois University where, on Valentine’s Day in 2008, exactly ten years before Nikolas Cruz walked into the freshman building in Parkland, a student named Steven Kazmierczak opened up on a crowd of his fellow students with a shotgun and three handguns. He killed five people and wounded 17 others before he ended things by killing himself. I’d forgotten that shooting ever happened, which…