B-CC Students Create Memorial for Gun Violence Victims

B-CC Students Create Memorial for Gun Violence Victims

Display on anniversary of mass school shooting in Florida will remain through Friday

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Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students created a display to honor victims of gun violence on the one-year anniversary of a mass school shooting in Florida.

Caitlynn Peetz

In a field of white T-shirts in front of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on Thursday morning was one with the name of a Silver Spring man killed by gunfire written in bright red.

His was the only shirt identifying a person older than 18, and the only one of a person killed before 2018, but it created a local connection to what one student leader called “a heartbreaking crisis.”

Led by the school’s group, BCC For Gun Control, about 20 high school students gathered before 6 a.m. to set up the display of nearly 700 T-shirts, all but one with the name of a teenager killed by guns – either in acts of suicide, homicide or by accident – nationwide in 2018.

“The idea is to create a visual representation of the effects of gun violence, because when people can see the display and imagine how many teenagers that would be, it’s really a chilling experience,” said Anna O’Keefe, one of the organizers and a Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior.

O’Keefe said the group included a shirt for Silver Spring’s Jon-Christian Kemachet-Webster at the request of his mother. Kemachet-Webster, 20, was killed in July 2017 in his home in what police called a drug deal gone wrong.

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase demonstration came on the one-year anniversary of a mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead and sparked mass spontaneous walkouts among county students in support of stronger firearm regulations.

Thursday’s memorial, however, wasn’t politically charged, and O’Keefe said the goal was a reminder of the far-reaching effects of gun violence in America.

“Whether you’re a gun supporter or a gun control supporter, no one can disagree that all of these lives were taken too soon,” O’Keefe said. “It’s not a partisan issue – real people, who could have been graduating, getting jobs or doing so many other big things, are dying.”

More than 100 students helped make the shirts during lunch periods and students raised money to purchase materials for the memorial.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase, on East-West Highway in Bethesda, has an enrollment of about 2,100 students.

The group got permission for the demonstration from Principal Donna Redmond-Jones for the display, and school officials said they support the memorial.

“We fully support our students expressing their concerns and speaking out about serious issues,” said school district spokesperson Derek Turner.

O’Keefe said she hopes the display will travel to other county schools on the anniversary of other school shootings to help spread the group’s message about the effects of gun violence.

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase display will remain up until Friday afternoon. Redmond-Jones did not return a call seeking comment.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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