Her name is Emma Gonzalez. Did you see her? Were you listening? If you’re hearing it here for the first time, you can rest assured it wont be the last.
Maybe it’s too soon to say, but yesterday on the Mall felt like one of those moments, the kind that get frozen in memory, and seem later to have marked the turning point, the instant when hearts were moved and the plates began to shift. From where I sit, this is all down to Emma. Emma was magnificent. She listed off the names of the dead, along with the things that each of them used to do, and would never do again. Carmen would never again complain about piano practice. Scott would never again joke around with Cameron at camp. Helen would never again hang out after school with Max. Until she just stopped saying what each of them used to do, because none of them were ever going to do anything ever again, and that’s all you needed to know:
Alaina Petty would never.
Cara Loughran would never.
Chris Hixon would never.
Luke Hoyer would never.
Then she stood silent, took a long, agonizing pause, until finally a little alarm went off, and six minutes, twenty seconds had elapsed since she’d begun. The same time it had taken a shooter with an AR-15 to dispose of all those lives.
They’re talking about MLK this morning, and comparing her oration to his. Standing here in the immediate reverberation of the moment, it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable. Maybe Emma just pounded the thin edge of the wedge into the whole rotten structure. Maybe that’s what it took, the mournful intensity of girl grown up too soon, choking back the tears, perhaps even unaware of her own magnetic charisma, mustering the poise to speak honestly, directly, eloquently, until her podium became a crucible in which she burned away all the cynicism, ambivalence, inertia and paralysis, to leave behind the pure product of determined, tenacious hope.
It was a brilliant display of rhetoric, the more so for being wholly unaffected. Was the siege at Orléans just lifted? Will the child lead us to victory? It isn’t like me, but today, I’m saying yes. Columbine wasn’t enough, Sandy Hook wasn’t enough, the Pulse Nightclub wasn’t enough, Las Vegas wasn’t enough, but I think maybe Emma was.
Listen to me, I’m all excited, but it’s hard, this day, to feel any other way.