“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC. (Image via amazon.com)

“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC. (Image via amazon.com)

Off the Shelf: The power of personal voice

“A Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” provides first-person accounts of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida

Something I’ve learned in my time as a reporter is the tremendous value in letting people tell their own stories. A lot of thought must be given to whose voices we choose to amplify and how accurately we portray their story, with the underlying knowledge that we’ll never be able to tell someone’s story as well as they could.

“A Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” has been on my personal to-be-read list since it was published in 2018.

Written by the founders of the March for Our Lives, a youth-led movement created in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the work is a collection of essays penned by the movement’s founders about their experiences.

The first piece is penned by Cameron Kasky, who was a junior during the 2018 shooting and has since become a gun reform activist. Rather than focus on the details of the shooting, Kasky writes, the essays explore the residual trauma and transformation of heartbreak into change that came afterward.

The essays that make up “A Glimmer of Hope” offer insight into how that level of impact was possible; one talks about what it’s like to lobby for reform as a high school student, another about what the energy was like at the national March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., and another still about what it was like to return to school two weeks after the shooting and try to return to their lives.

Each is led with a strong personal voice and level of candor that humbles the reader into sitting back and recognizing the value of letting the survivors tell their own stories. Knowing that the authors have elected to be vulnerable and lay bare their memories of tragedy makes the read a powerful one.

Growing up in the mid-aughts, I often felt like school shootings were a given; it sometimes seemed like every classmate knew someone who knew someone who had survived one. As students in elementary, middle and high school, we trained for active shooter situations, just like for fires and earthquakes — turn off all the lights, stay quiet and get away from the classroom windows.

It’s for those reasons, maybe, that the Parkland shooting stands out so clearly in my mind. Watching it unfold in real time was to see people my age using their horrific experience to make sure it didn’t happen again. Of course, it did. Though opinions on gun reform vary, I think most would agree the post-shooting discourse is fairly routine.

We’re watching it play out right now, in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, as well as the Buffalo, New York, shooting that left 10 people dead in a supermarket. The writers in “A Glimmer of Hope” address that routine from the get-go and make it clear that they wanted their shooting to be different.

“I knew that I was part of a flavor-of-the-month mass school shooting,” Kasky writes. “The fact that I could easily identify this phenomenon speaks volumes for just how common this is and just how de-sensitized we have been to these horrific acts.”

Beyond Parkland students’ continued involvement in gun reform advocacy, the impact of the movement lives on.

Just last week a group of Soldotna residents responded to March for Our Lives’ national call to action and demonstrated outside of the Kenai River Festival in Soldotna Creek Park. It was a bit surreal to think about the impact of the Parkland kids stretching from Florida to Alaska.

“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC.

Ashlyn O’Hara can be reached at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Off the Shelf is a bimonthly literature column written by the staff of The Peninsula Clarion that features reviews and recommendations of books and other texts through a contemporary lens.

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