A University of Richmond student carried her hometown connections with her at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on Sat. March 24, 2018.

Olivia “Liv” Diaz, a first-year studying journalism, was born in Parkland, Florida, in 1999. She lived in Parkland for four years before moving to Connecticut.

The Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school hit too close to home for Diaz, she said. If her family had decided to stay in Parkland, the students at Stoneman Douglas could have been her friends that she lost.

Diaz was in middle school, fifteen minutes away from Sandy Hook elementary school, when she saw the breaking news announcement run across her library computer screen. “I remember being scared,” she said. “We didn’t know if Adam Lanza was working alone, or if our school and other schools in our area were in danger.”

Her community in Connecticut was in disbelief at what had happened at Sandy Hook elementary school. 

“A lot of people in my area went to Newtown after it happened, to see all of the flowers and the memorial-type art,” Diaz said. “But my parents specifically wanted to avoid going to Newtown because they felt that it was a place that deserved respect for the lives lost."

The proximity of the event seemed unreal to Diaz. It appeared that she hadn't quite escaped the reality of school shootings after she heard about the Parkland shooting.

“I think when I reflect on the fact that I lived in Parkland, I feel lucky,” she said. “I try not to think of that 'what if' because I don’t think it does any good, but yet again, it is kind of difficult not to think of what my life would have been."

“If anything, reflecting on Parkland, I understand that I have a responsibility,” Diaz said.

Diaz attended the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., with her father. It appears that the news of school shootings has been normalized, she said.

There have been at least seventeen school shootings since the beginning of 2018, and these events no longer make the front page of the paper, she said.

“Seeing all of the participants [at the march] from all over the country attending was quite inspiring,” Diaz said. “I cannot really think of one specific moment that stood out, but just being there and seeing that so many people find this issue important.” 

Diaz recognizes that change and comprehensive gun control will take time. 

“But I think since the march, more specifically since Parkland, we’ve [students and supporters of gun control] kind of created a force to be reckoned with,” she said.

Though Diaz was indirectly affected by two major school shootings, her passion and intent is clear. All of us students at the University of Richmond are lucky to be here and learn safely, she said.

“I think we have to use that benefit of safety and make sure that we have earned it by advocating for those who do not have the same privilege,” Diaz said.

Contact writer Emma Phelps at emma.phelps@richmond.edu.