Jillian Cressman used to think of time in terms of “pre-2012” and “post-2012.”
“I’m from a small town that was the safest place in the world until someone brought a gun into the school,” Cressman said.
On Feb. 27, 2012, a shooter came into Chardon High School. Cressman survived. But three students were killed and many more were left injured.
Now a fourth-year in social work, Cressman shared her story with a crowd of nearly 70 students, staff and community members Friday afternoon at The Oval.
The gathering took place at 10 a.m. in front of the Thompson Library. A crowd gathered as part of the National School Walkout, which fell on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Members of the walkout left class to protest for stricter gun regulations.
“You don’t want to wait [to get involved] until you’re like me, and you’re motivated to be here because you’ve lost a classmate, or you’ve lost a sibling,” Cressman said. “Don’t think you’re immune to it.”
One of the organizers of the event, Brandon Wong, a first-year in economics and political science, said anyone who was interested could speak to the crowd.
Speakers discussed topics such as mental health, becoming educated on current legislation, and researching state representatives to make positive changes.
Among the crowd was Nate Turner, who held a sign with the words “I’m pro-gun. Change my mind.”
Turner, a second-year in political science and computer science and student member of Turning Point USA, a conservative organization, said he wanted to open a dialogue between the people at the event and in the community.
“I feel like there is not enough civil dialogue on campus,” he said. “I invite anyone to come up to try and change my mind. I just want to keep stuff civil. I want change, but change isn’t going to come overnight. We need to talk about these things.”
Frank Parmir, and a member of the advocacy group Muslims for Progressive Values, stopped at the protest after noticing it while on a walk with his wife.
“If we fight hostility with hostility, hostility will never come to an end,” he said.
Wong said he was very glad people felt welcome to attend the event and discuss dissenting opinions to open a civil dialogue, even if individuals disagree on how to fix the problems in the community.
“The issue here what unites us all is that we are trying to find a solution to an obvious problem, and if we have to compromise, that’s better than getting nothing done,” Cressman said.
In addition to discussing issues surrounding gun violence, an Associate Professor in the Department of English, Lauren Squires led the crowd in a chant which has been heard at various protests around the country such as the women’s march: “This is what democracy looks like.”