(photo-Violet Massie-Vereker Deborah Lowery/Polaris)
Editor’s note: Following last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, students across the country raised their voices calling on politicians to take measures to stop gun violence.
Violet Massie-Vereker, a high school student from Pelham, New York, created the #MeNext hashtag by posing for a picture outside Pelham Memorial High School holding a sign with the hashtag. The hashtag has since gone viral and a Facebook page has been created with its haunting message: If lawmakers don’t step up, more children will be killed.
In an essay written exclusively for PEOPLE, Massie-Vereker discusses the origin of her hashtag and the urgency of her cause.
It started when I saw the flag outside our school standing at half-mast on Wednesday evening. It’s a familiar sight, so I only spent a second wondering what new horror had struck our nation before the thought left my mind. It wasn’t until the next afternoon when I learned of the shooting, when I read the articles, saw the videos, when I cried into my friend’s shoulder and resolved that this was it, this was enough.
I heard that a number of citizen activists in my town of Pelham, New York, had organized a protest in front of our high school on Friday morning to demand immediate gun control legislation. A parent reached out and asked me to rally a number of students to join the protest and participate in a walkout, which came to fruition with great success and full support from the school. What followed was entirely unpremeditated and extraordinary.