Bellmore-Merrick students say, 'Never Again'

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The South Shore Women’s Alliance last week presented awards to the winners of their “Never Again” essay and poster contest to two Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District students, who put to paper their thoughts on gun violence.

Josephina Bonura, from Kennedy, was the winner of the poster portion of the contest, and Anna Kirby, from Calhoun, wrote the winning essay. Both were awarded $100, and they were also featured recently on WGBB radio, where they shared their thoughts on the post-Parkland, Florida, shooting movement against gun violence, along with Kennedy’s Justin Dynia and Calhoun’s Kara Vecchione, who helped organize her school’s 17-minute walkout on March 14.

Below is Kirby’s essay, reprinted in full.

Seventeen

Hi. I’m Anna. I’m 17, and recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means.

For me, that means that I’m going to graduate soon; it means that I’m supposed to be a little bit reckless; it means I can spend my days with my friends and then go home to my family like any 17-year-old should.

It means that I’m a kid, just like you are, who holds tight to the benefits of my youth, while simultaneously wishing it away. I’m learning, I’m living, I’m a little bit stupid; I’m 17.

In Tarot cards, Card Number 17 is the card of the stars. It symbolizes that your wishes for the future will someday come true. It symbolizes hope.

The Roman numeral for 17 translates anagrammatically to VIXI, which in Latin means, “I lived.” I lived.

Zero of the 17 victims of the shooting in Parkland did. Only seven made it to 17 years old.

And some just barely. What were they doing in their last 17 hours, minutes, seconds? At what point do you think that they realized that they’d never make it to 17, or never make it past 17, that they could never pull an all-nighter studying for a test again, or laugh at a teacher’s stupid joke in social studies class, or spend the weekend with their best friends, or go home to their families?

When they were taking 17 seconds to compose an “I love you” text to their parents, do you think they realized that the youth that we take so for granted was about to be ripped from them? That they’d never get to be 17 again?

Hi. I’m Anna. I’m 17, and I am going to spend the next 17 seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, lifetimes fighting for those 17 people who lost their lives, because even at 17, just as you can finally drive, and finally get your diploma, and finally commit to the school of your dreams, you can get your hands on a gun.

A gun, which has the power to take the lives of people just like the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting faster than you can take 17 seconds to look around and relish what you have before it is taken from you. So let’s take the opportunity to use our youth.

To take the energy and fire that comes with being 17, or 16, or 15, or 14, or 18, and fight for those who never made it there, so that kids in schools around the country just like ours can go to school every day and only have to worry about all the stereotypical, silly, blissful, wonderful parts of just being 17.