When the alarm in her school went off on Feb. 14, Emily Malka thought it was just a drill.
“We were all kind of confused. We were thinking, is something going on?” said Malka, a Grade 12 student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “Then I hear this girl in front of me, she was on the phone, and she said what do you mean it’s real.”
Emily’s parents, originally from Montreal, have been living in Florida since 2003. Emily and her brother attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and were both on lockdown that day.
Though they emerged alive, 17 others weren’t as lucky.
“One of the girls, she was in one of my classes, so just seeing that empty seat, it’s weird,” Malka said.
Since the massacre, Parkland students have rallied together to call on the U.S. government to introduce new gun control measures.
A few weeks ago, they announced the March for Our Lives event, which will take place in Washington at the end of the month.
Since then, hundreds of cities, in five different continents, have also planned marches — including in Montreal. Hundreds of people — including the Malkas — are expected to gather at Cabot Square and march to the U.S. consulate, to stand in solidarity with those in Florida who are calling for stricter gun control in the U.S.
“This is not an issue which is completely foreign to us,” said organizer Phil Lord. “We had a few mass shootings in Montreal a few decades ago, and per capita, we actually had more mass shootings than in the U.S. back then. So it’s an issue that we tackle, not just on gun control, but as a social issue.”
Expected to join them is Cyril Yared.
He currently studies at McGill University, but has a strong connection with Stoneman Douglas.
He graduated from the school last year and has two sisters who still attend and who were both at school on the day of the shooting.
“When we moved to Florida, we chose Parkland because it was one of the safest communities in Florida,” Yared said. “To have something like this happen, it just shatters your sense of safety, it shatters your sense of security and it just shatters our community as a whole.”
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Those like Yared and the Malkas are overwhelmed with the amount of support they’ve been receiving from Montrealers and those around the world.
“I think it’s amazing that they are standing up to support a problem that our children here and we are concerned about,” said Emily’s mother, Ellen Gozansky.
Organizers say the goal of the March 24 event is to put international pressure on us lawmakers to make a change.
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