BLACKSBURG, Va. – It’s been nearly two decades since 13 people were killed and more than 20 others were hurt in a shooting at Columbine High School. To mark the 19th anniversary, school walkouts are happening across the nation Friday.
In Blacksburg, Friday’s One Voice event will take place at the playing fields between Kipps Elementary School and Blacksburg Middle School. It’s one of more than 2,100 nationwide, with at least one in every state.
The theme of the walkout and Blacksburg is to protect our children, and it’s a plan that’s being incorporated into the entire event. Friday morning, adults will form a ring around the field, joining hands to create a human barrier. Inside of that circle is where students from the elementary, middle and high schools will spend the 17-minute vigil.
“Between 10 and 10:17 a.m., that’s going to be a somber time for the adults. But we hope the kids are going to continue to play,” says Mindy Quigley, a co-organizer of the event. “That’s part of the message we want to send, let kids be kids. Let them have their childhood. Don’t make them focus on lockdowns and active shooters, that’s not what we want our kids' childhoods to be like.”
Following the vigil, community members, including Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager Dash Smith, as well as local teachers and high school students, will be making speeches and talking about the importance of protecting students.
Organizers say this event is about more than just showing support for communities dealing with tragedy -- it’s a call for action.
“We all agree that thoughts and prayers are important and we’re sending our thoughts and prayers to Parkland and other communities across the country that have been impacted exactly as this community has been,” says Quigley. “But the moment for change is now. Let’s not still be here in another year or another 10 years having this exact same conversation where we haven’t even tried to make a change.”
This is a vigil that was originally scheduled for March, but was postponed because of bad weather and messy conditions on the fields.
Organizers are reminding parents that checkout procedures are the same as always. Elementary and middle school students must be checked out by a parent or someone on the approved checkout list. High school students can check out with a signed a note from a parent or guardian.