NEW BRUNSWICK – Students at the city high school and middle school left their classrooms Wednesday for ceremonies marking the one-month anniversary of the shooting at a Florida high school where a former student shot and killed 17 people.
Outside New Brunswick High School, the young people walked out of the building at 10 a.m., participating in one of more than a dozen similar demonstrations at schools across New Jersey.
New Brunswick school officials worked with students and arranged a more than hour-long ceremony. The school was bustling as early as 8 a.m., as preparations were being made to accommodate the students in the front of of the large campus on Somerset Street.
Several students stood in front of school holding a large banner with the words “#WeAreTheChange,” which fluttered and blew in the stiff wind that accompanied the chilly temperatures.
The rest of the student body huddled in front a stage and podium set up in front of the school. Speakers, including school administrators, faculty, students and Mayor James Cahill, urged the high schoolers to use their time in ways that would prevent future school shootings and help classmates who feel isolated.
“I want you to reach out to other students that you see sometimes who are sitting by themselves,” one school administrator urged the students.
Attendees recalled an unforgettable Feb. 14, when a 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., entered the high school and shot and killed 17 students and faculty members. The shooter then fled, but was arrested less than two hours later walking on a street in a neighboring town.
In New Brunswick on Wednesday, emergency vehicles and trucks blocked all the entrances to the high school and middle school, and police officers kept members of the public back from the ceremonies.
The names of the 17 shooting Florida shooting victims were read at the two schools. Students at the high school then released balloons into the air in honor of the victims.
“The dedication that you and young people and educators all across our nation have shown to the cause of ending violence in our communities is not only admirable, it is needed,” Cahill told the students. “On behalf of all the residents of the City of New Brunswick, I say thank you,” the mayor said.
Participating schools include: New Brunswick High School, New Brunswick Middle School, Woodrow Wilson School, and Paul Robeson School.
Thousands of students across the state left their schools to demonstrate their concern of the need for changes to prevent school shootings. Similar demonstrations occurred throughout the country, dubbed the "National School Walkout." There were protests, marches, memorials, and ceremonies running from 10 to 10:17 a.m.