For journalist Dave Cullen, the decisive moment in the aftermath of the shooting in the Parkland school, small Cameron Kasky came home from school that frightening, frightening day.
On February 14, 2018, a shooter had killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Children and teachers fled or hid in the classroom. They tweet and text messages in an attempt to discover who was safe. They held each other's hands and cried. Most of them are finally reunited with their families. Some do not.
And when Cameron finally came home and could not sleep, he unconsciously started a movement.
"He was thinking aloud about social media," says Cullen. "He asked:" Who will help me? "He set up profiles to widen the net and said:" Contact me. "And when he woke up the next day, he had mailboxes full of people who wanted to help, and had kids come to his house He was a Pied Piper who brought them all together. & # 39;
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As for "she", well, you know the names. David Hogg. Emma Gonzalez. Jackie Corin. Alex Wind. So many others, who are now central to Cullen's new book "Parkland: Birth of a Movement" (Harper, $ 27.99).
Cullen, appearing at Books & Books in Coral Gables on 27 February, treated the Columbine shootings in 1999 (and thus suffered from PTSD for years). Ten years later, he published Columbine & # 39; as the final report of the tragedy that ushered in the era of school shootings. Cullen has become, as he writes, "the man of the mass murder" who call reporters and TV producers for an interview after each shooting. And there have been far too many in the past 20 years.
But "Parkland & # 39 ;, written and published at a furious pace, is another book than Columbine & # 39; It is about how the Stoneman Douglas students quickly organized themselves into a powerful political force at a time when America had thrown his hands over the rifle. security debate. The children quickly supported the support, created the March for Our Lives group and organized a march in Washington, D.C., as well as sister mothers. They then organized voter registrations across the country, worked with other arms security advocates, such as Peace Warriors, and played a role in the 2018 midterm elections.
"We were looking for a leader," says Cullen. "We did not expect the leaders to be our children."
Cullen sounds dizzy when he talks about the Parkland students and their achievements, following a sentiment reverberating throughout the country: it is about time.
But why now? Why was America ready when it was not after Pulse, Sandy Hook or another mass murder? Cullen believes that there were a number of factors. First the organizers played their strong points – Jackie Corin was the logistics wizard, David Hogg the media fire magazine, and so on. And they always kept the same focus – on guns – and spoke with one voice.
They are "the opposite of Occupy Wall Street – no conflicting messages", says Cullen. "And this movement is so much greater than the sum of the parts, they already have this different, diverse talent."
However, according to Cullen, the game changer is usually a demonized entity, social media. It is not that students on Columbine did not want to be agents of change; they just did not have the template or the tools. In the meantime, the Parkland children had grown up practicing active target practice, and thanks to SnapChat, Twitter and Instagram, they were already amateur media makers & # 39 ;.
The children quickly gathered like-minded followers – for example Emma Gonzalez has 1.6 million followers on Twitter – allowing them to convey their message effectively. It also helped them to articulate their anger as one coherent voice almost immediately, according to Cullen, which fostered the desire to organize.
"I remember that I was stunned when I first saw David Hogg," says Cullen, who spent hours with the students, personally and on the phone. "My first thought was: this is not a survivor of day 1. There was something else, instead of cuddling, they were making love and they discovered that everyone was also busy breathing … In person you want an emotional You want to cuddle, but they were communicating on social media, and so many were raging, and they realized that everyone had the same thoughts. & # 39;
Cullen believes that the biggest impact of March for our lives is the equalizing effect on politicians of both parties on the shared topic of arms security.
"Politicians were terrified," he says. "The NRA might say:" We will kill your political career if you oppose us. "That ended on election day, many candidates for gun security outperformed those who were against it, and a draw was a victory, helping the children keep the playing field on an equal footing."
Some of the founders of March for Our Lives have graduated and others will join soon. The leadership can shift, but the group has set its sights on involving young voters on campuses throughout the country.
Cullen does not doubt the potential for more success – and for more young leaders to come forward.
"I was charged every time I called with one of them," he says. "They were exciting, they heal America, but every time I talk to high school students, they surprise me with insights and how clear they are … We are locked in. They are not even in the box yet. & # 39;