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Parkland survivors rally in Colo. on eve of Columbine massacre

LITTLETON, Colo. — School shooting survivors from Parkland, Fla. rallied in 91Ӱ on Thursday — the night before the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting — to push for stronger national gun control. 

Vietnam veteran Joseph Hogan, 69, came to the Columbine gun violence rally because he said he doesn’t want to worry about his 6-year-old grandson dying at school.

Headlined as “Vote for Our Lives,” the rally, adjacent to the site of the 1999 massacre, pushed for gun-control legislation to protect students in schools. Part of the effort involves getting high school students registered to vote if they’ll be 18 by the next election. 

Thousands of students across the country are also expected to walk out of classes Friday to protest ongoing gun violence. 

“They thought they were burying us. They didn’t know we were seeds,” said Emmy Adams, a senior at nearby Golden High School who helped organize the rally. “They didn’t know we would turn hate into action.”

Nearly 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School flew from Florida for the rally, staying with local families who helped fund their trips. The Florida students, who said they were on excused absence from school, were to also participate Friday during a nationwide walkout against gun violence.

Wearing a maroon shirt that says #MSDStrong, Gabriel Motta, a 10th grader who survived the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., walks with classmates into Columbine High School on Thursday afternoon.

“It just feels surreal. We were born knowing what Columbine is,” Stoneman Douglas senior Michelle Dittmeier said after visiting the memorial. “I came here to not feel alone. And this really helps you to feel you’re not alone.”

Standing with her friends, Dittmeier held a sign remembering the 17 students and staff killed at her high school on Feb. 14. 

The rally, which also touched on police violence in black communities, “exploitative journalists” and do-nothing politicians, also featured Columbine teacher Paula Reed, who survived the shooting that killed 13 students and staff, along with the two student gunmen. 

Michelle Dittmeier, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., holds a sign remembering the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 shooting, while attending a rally against gun violence at Columbine high school in 91Ӱ on Thursday evening.

Reed said the idea of arming teachers is folly, and called for legislation that could help prevent teen shooters from acquiring firearms. 

“You’re asking me to kill one of my own students,” she said as she choked up. “It’s too much to ask.”

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