This morning, I stood on the lawn outside the U.S. Capitol and participated in a moment of silence at 9:38 a.m., the time that the shooting began at Virginia Tech six years ago. I stood with family members of victims and survivors of gun violence, as they urged Congress to take action to prevent gun violence. Colin Goddard, who was shot four times at Virginia Tech and survived, spoke alongside his father.
"Let every member of Congress hear the names of those killed six years ago," Goddard said. "Let every member of Congress hear the names of all the Americans killed since Newtown."
The names Goddard spoke of are those of the more than 3,000 people who have died from gun violence since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, just over four months ago. The names have been continuously read in front of the Capitol for the past two days and will continue to be read until Congress takes action.
Today, the names were of victims under the age of 30. As a young person, I felt it was especially important that I was present to remember those under 30 who lost their lives due to gun violence, but I had no idea how emotional it would be.
Watching the sister of a victim from Sandy Hook break down as her sister's name was read, it was hard to keep myself from crying. Listening to a father who lost his daughter in the Virginia Tech shooting, it was difficult to understand why Congress has not taken action. Witnessing all of the family members and survivors hold hands in solidarity as names were read, it was unimaginable that anyone could ignore their voices.
After several of the family members read names, it was time for someone else to take over. That's where I—along with several fellow interns from Campus Progress—came in.
There's something about stepping up to a podium that is nerve-wracking. But none of those thoughts of fear or nervousness crossed my mind as I waited to read names. I kept reminding myself of those who had lost their lives and how important it was to remember them.
I did manage to read a page of names, and it was an experience I will never forget. Despite never having met any of the people, this experience made me feel as if I was connected personally with each one of them. When I listened to others read, I heard so many names from Memphis, Tenn., my home and a place that witnesses some of the highest levels of gun violence every year.
The names are more than just words on a sheet of paper. They represent individuals—with hopes and dreams, just like the rest of us—whose lives were cut short because of gun violence. Today was a reminder to Congress, and the world, that now is the time for action. Now is the time for Congress to say enough. Now is the time to say they deserve a vote.
There is overwhelming support for background checks in the United States. A new public opinion survey released today by Campus Progress, the Center for American Progress, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, shows that Millennials overwhelming support background checks and agree that the gun culture in the United States is out of control. There are no excuses for preventing legislation that could save lives from the horror of gun violence.
Today, I stood in front of the Capitol with family members, survivors, and fellow young people to remember those who lost their lives—not just at Virginia Tech, but the thousands who have died just since the Newtown shooting. To learn how you can take action, visit www.NoMoreNames.org or join the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag, #NoMoreNames.