The clock struck 10 and they began walking out. By the hundreds, by the thousands, by the tens of thousands across Sacramento, California and the United States. High school students took 17 minutes out of their school day Wednesday to honor their fellow students gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and to demand school safety and the end to gun violence.
Most schools in the Sacramento region participated. I was contacted by my local high school, Bella Vista in Fair Oaks, after I wrote a blog saying I would march with the students during their national rally March 24th. I've been reporting on school shootings for 29 years and nothing has changed. I felt compelled to support them.
Senior Jermain Worthy choked up as he spoke at Bella Vista's rally.
"There are people whose lives have been taken. They're gone now. They'll never get to live out their lives."
Some schools put out 17 empty desks. Others placed 17 bouquets of flowers. Many read the names of the Florida victims in a solemn ceremony. In Los Angeles, students lied down on the football field with their bodies spelling out in big, bold letters: ENOUGH.
For many of the students, the event was also educational. Most did not know their schools had psychologists to talk to or a tip line to report suspicious behavior.
Most school districts sanctioned the walkouts but some did not. In Davis, school officials said they would mark it as an unexcused absence. In Atlanta, one high school told students they would be "severely punished" if they walked out. So some stayed inside and took a knee instead at 10 a.m.
There is one more big rally to come on March 24th on Capitol Mall in D.C. I've been covering protests and all kinds of movements for more than 30 years. I agree with others, including Oprah, that this one feels different.
As young Jermain put it: "I can't possibly imagine living in a world where the world's okay with kids getting shot." The children will lead us.