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March for Our Lives attracts Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumni to ‘stand behind’ Parkland victims, activists

The loss of the 17 students and teachers was like “the death of a family member.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni participate in

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni participate in New York City's March for Our Lives on Saturday. Photo Credit: Rajvi Desai

Three Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) alumni did everything together — from participating in student government in high school to attending the University of Florida, and finally becoming New Yorkers living on the Upper East Side.

Now, they march together against gun violence at Manhattan’s March for Our Lives demonstration.

“I pulled out my yearbook in the weeks after the [Parkland] shooting, looking at all the hair and really remembering what it was like to be at the school, to be with my friends,” Erica Kless, MSD class of ’99, said.

Wearing an “MSD Strong Alumni” shirt and standing with two of her best friends — twins Kimberly and Lindsay Schneider — Kless lauded current MSD students for their activism and advocacy for gun control in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead.

“I’m so glad that active participation continues to be a trend,” she said, adding that she was surprised at the quick pace with which alumni all over the country came together on social media to support the shooting victims.

More than 11,000 former students became involved to make sure the Parkland tragedy never happens again, according to the founder of the NYC alumni chapter, Nicole Sloan. More than 400 of those were in New York City, she said by telephone on Friday.

“All of us want to follow what the kids are doing and help the change they want to see,” the 2007 MSD graduate said. “We want to stand behind them.”

Standing on Central Park West, the alumni contingent reminisced about MSD and vowed to stand behind the new generation of activists.

“I’m humbled and invigorated to lend our voices to this movement,” Kimberly Schneider, class of ’99, said.

Former students stressed the shock they felt when they learned of the shooting. Parkland, Florida, is a well-educated, affluent, quiet, safe town, Michael Hoesten, class of ’07, said.

“There is nothing about our school or our town that would give you any clue that something like this would happen here,” he said. “It really proves that this kind of thing can happen anywhere.”

Upon learning of the shooting, Hoesten envisioned the hallways of his high school and recalled walking down the same streets as the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

“Imagine a natural disaster. Then multiply it with the death of a family member,” he said.

Hoesten, like the other alumni marching for gun reform, stressed the importance of being heard far and wide.

“Raise awareness about the cause and let the awareness of the cause drive the action of those that vote in November,” he said.

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