Parkland School Alum: ‘We Knew We Couldn’t Sit Back’

Comerford_JenniferBy Jennifer Comerford

As I headed to work on Valentine’s Day this year, I wore a ribbon that I made at Northern Illinois University, my alma mater, after the 2008 shooting at the school that killed six people. For the past 10 years I have worn the Huskie ribbon as a memory of the tragedy.

This year would be more of the same to an almost surreal degree. This year, my beloved high school in Parkland, Florida, would be the scene of another tragic shooting.

I remember hearing the news and thinking, “how can this be happening again?” It’s been 20 years since I graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I can clearly remember feeling safe at high school and making friendships that would last a lifetime. I remember myself in the buildings, hallways and courtyards that I now have seen on the news with children running through them to escape. High school was probably the most influential time of my life.

Into action

It’s hard to put into words the way you feel when something so special to you is attacked.  I still have friends in Florida. I have classmates who teach at Douglas, including one, Aaron Feis, who unfortunately didn’t make it out.

The only people who could understand what I was going through were my fellow Douglas alumni. In a matter of hours, a Facebook group was created for alumni in Chicago, with more than 70 members. We knew we couldn’t sit back, and we went into action working with Douglas students and other alumni.

Alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hosted “We’ve Got Your Back: Together We Can Change Gun Violence” at iO Theater, with proceeds going to the student-led March for Our Lives Chicago, the local satellite of the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.

Why I march

I will be marching on March 24 because the gun violence issue is very close to me. I will be marching because two of the schools I attended have been attacked. I will be marching for the students and teachers we have lost to gun violence. I will be marching for those who have attended concerts or movies and didn’t make it home. I will be marching because I continue to send my young girls to school every day. I will be marching to make us a safer country. I will be marching for those who have felt, witnessed, survived or died from gun violence anywhere.

I invite my fellow Rush employees to March with me to end gun violence. It means so much to me that Rush is committed to a healthier Chicago, and that the place where I work understands all of the societal things that impact health.

Jennifer Comerford, MA, CHCP is the program manager in the Interprofessional Continuing Education Office of Rush University.

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