Suzanne Davis knows the kids who died in Parkland, Florida.
“These children were just like my friends and just like me,” said Davis, an 18-year-old senior at Niskayuna High School. “This should not have happened, and it did. And they were just going to school.”
Davis and about 800 of her classmates at Niskayuna on Wednesday remembered the 17 people shot and killed on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The teens left their classrooms at 10 a.m. and held an outdoor ceremony on a blustery morning. The names of those killed in the Florida school attack were read, and a minute of silence was observed before an orange balloon was released for each victim.
Davis helped organize the observance, one of several in the Capital Region and among many across the country in the nationally organized walkout. Several Niskayuna participants wore orange T-shirts emblazoned with the word “Enough.” The balloons also were orange — the color adopted to show resistance against gun violence.
“We couldn’t let these children die in vain, which we’ve done too many times,” Davis said after the ceremony. “Every time one of these shootings happens, it’s washed away within a couple days in the next news cycle. We refused to let that happen this time.”
Niskayuna Principal John W. Rickert said students who planned the observance first discussed their ideas with school officials.
“The students came to us and asked for some parameters — some guidance on what they could do and couldn’t do,” Rickert said. “We explained clearly to them that our mission here is to educate; we instruct. We can’t condone any sort of interruption in education.”
Rickert said school officials also understood the students’ request and right to make a statement about the Parkland attack.
“Our students did exactly what they told us they would do,” Rickert said.
He also said the ceremony was planned entirely by the students.
“The school’s only role in this was to provide supervision and safety,” Rickert said. “Students have the right to express themselves; we just asked they do so in an orderly fashion — that they respect adult directives. I clearly saw them doing that.”
A Niskayuna school bus blocked the Balltown Road entrance to the school campus during the ceremony. Town police officers were on school grounds, as well.
Rickert said police were at the school to watch over the students.
The entrance was blocked, Rickert said, to keep traffic out while so many students were outside.
Teachers with duties inside the school at 10 a.m. — in classrooms, study halls or cafeterias — remained at their stations. Some students decided to stay inside the school.
Davis, who read the victims’ names, believes change is coming.
“I think a lot of students are really tired of letting this continued violence be rampant throughout our country and put children at risk when they’re supposed to be in a safe place where they can grow as individuals,” she said.
Davis also said she was surprised and thrilled so many of her classmates decided to participate. She believes the Niskayuna demonstration — and actions taken by other schools across the nation — will have an impact.
“People are going to realize that we’re the future; it’s our lives to lose,” Davis said. “I think they’re going to understand that we’re going to take this very seriously and we’re not going to let this go.
“A lot of us are eligible voters now, or will be soon in the future,” Davis added. “They’re going to have to know now this is an issue that we will care about, and we will make them pass legislation on and consider when they’re running or serving as our representatives.”
The observance was over in about 20 minutes.
After Davis read the last name, she added a statement of her own.
“They were all loved,” she said. “And they will all be missed.”
Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]