Daniel Williams, survivor of the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, spoke at the 2018 fall National College Media Convention about his experience with the February shooting, his involvement with the March for Our Lives movement and the importance of voting.
The 18-year-old is the digital director of March for Our Lives, an organization advocating for change in gun legislation. The organization was created following the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a former student opened fire and killed 17 people.
Williams was outside when the school issued a code red. He was unaware of the shooting until he read articles about it on his phone while seeking safety in the band room.
“It was insane that I didn’t know what was going on in my school, and I was in the school,” said Williams. “We didn’t know how many students were dead. We didn’t know who the shooter was.”
In the days following the shooting, Williams said students spent time visiting one another, talking about what they could do to incite change. Cameron Kasky, one of the founders of March for Our Lives, gathered students in his living room to have a conversation about what to do next.
Only four days after the shooting, they announced the creation of the march. The student-led demonstration protesting gun violence took place on March 24, 2018.
Since then, Williams said the movement has focused on urging young people to vote. He said after realizing that many politicians in power are financially supported by the NRA, they started pushing for people to vote to replace those in office. Williams said he regrets that it took a school shooting for him to care about gun violence.
“We’re pushing the importance of voting because every single one of your voices matter,” said Williams. “If you have people in power that don’t represent who you are, and who don’t care about the issues that are important to you, then they shouldn’t be there because they work for us and they’re representing us.”
With the anniversary of the Parkland shooting approaching, Williams said he doesn’t want news outlets to focus on the shooter or the negatives, but to recognize the good that has happened from the incident to help drive the conversation on gun violence.
“This is the time where young people stand up and say ‘My voice matters, I want change’," said Williams. "We want this to be inspiring for other young people in the future.”
The March for Our Lives movement is currently on a tour called the "Road to Change" tour. They're traveling to different universities to host educational events and register students to vote. They will be on tour until Election Day on Nov. 6.