For 17 minutes Wednesday morning, every student at Lynbrook High School remembered the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. at a memorial service in the school's gymnasium.
The event was organized by members of the Student Government Association, who worked with Principal Joseph Rainis to plan it. “It was a true group effort when our students come to us and they want to work together as a team to share in remembrance,” said SGA adviser Mary Kirby. “A lot of our students had personal connections to them,” she added.
The service started with SGA President Dustin Mandell discussing the shooting, which occurred on Feb. 14. Afterward, each member of the SGA described the lives of the victims. Mandell also read a viral letter from a teacher telling students they should befriend other students who may not have any other friends.
“If you really feel the need to walk, walk toward that person,” the letter read. “Your new friendship can relieve the heartache of one person and in doing so, possibly prevent the unjustifiable heartache of hundreds of lives in the future. I know you. I trust you. You are the answer.”
Rainis reiterated these sentiments in his closing remarks. “You are this community’s most precious resource,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears. “Never forget that. Treat one another kindly all the time because we are an extended family.”
To fill the rest of the 17 minutes, students partook in a silent reflection on the lives lost, and Mandell gave his final thoughts. “Change starts with each and every one of you,” he said.
The memorial service was the district’s response to the National School Walkout to remember the 17 victims of the mass shooting, and to call for stricter gun control, according to student activists and educators.
“[The students] were able to participate in a national movement and also encourage students to do something that would have a real impact,” Board of Education President William Belmont said about the school’s memorial service. “Being kind and showing love to each other can make a real difference.
Superintendent Melissa Burak also said that she was proud of the students. “We need to look to them to make changes that are necessary to society,” she said.
East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School also held an assembly for the victims Wednesday morning.
Scott Brinton contributed to this story.