SHORELINE, Wash. — Community members gathered in Shoreline on Wednesday for a remembrance ceremony marking 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 students and six educators.
Washington survivors of gun violence, students and gun safety advocates spoke the names of victims at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, sang and played music, and shared words of support in a candlelight vigil.
Speakers noted that in the 10 years since Sandy Hook, gun violence has continued to plague communities across the country, including in the Seattle area.
"2020 marked the first year that firearms overtook car accidents as the leading cause of death for children and youth according to the CDC," said Jane Weiss, a Washington resident and survivor of gun violence.
This year, one child in the Seattle area was killed by gun violence on a school campus: Seventeen-year-old Ebenezer Haile at Ingraham High School.
Chetan Soni, a senior at Lincoln High School, said the death of Haile has given him and his peers the motivation to advocate on behalf of gun control and mental health.
"As we reflect on the 10-year mark of a horrific shooting that took place in an elementary school, are we really that much safer in our schools?" said Soni. "We continue to not be protected in the very places that are meant to make us feel safe. I challenge legislators who have not supported gun violence prevention, that thoughts and prayers are not enough, they've never been enough. When will you draw the line?"
Soni said the death of Haile was felt districtwide, prompting action.
"Every Seattle public school was hurting," said Soni.
A month ago, students walked out of school and gathered at Seattle City Hall to demand action from leaders to prevent gun violence. Soni led that walkout.
"As a result of that protest, by the leadership of Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, we have gotten $4 million in the biennium (for) additional support for mental health counselors," Soni said.
While encouraged by the recent progress, Soni also said his work is not over, and that he and his peers plan to continue advocating after winter break.