Students create memorial hoping to prevent school shootings
SALT LAKE CITY – Two college-aged students took to the steps of Utah’s State Capitol Tuesday. They weren’t there to protest, rather to make a statement about school shootings.
The Students for Liberty members set up a memorial of 500 crosses on the steps. It was the idea of the international organization’s Utah Campus Coordinator Justin Anderson.
Anderson said he couldn’t stop pacing his house when he heard about the tragedy in Florida, “I was upset there was another shooting, but more than that I called it ‘another shooting.’”
That night Anderson, a Provo resident, came up with the memorial.
“Obviously, the victims of the Florida shootings are the ones that are the most prevalent in people’s minds. We really need to remember all the students that have been killed in school shootings to really keep it in context,” Anderson said.
He said each cross represents a student killed in a school shooting in the last 50 years. He and the Students for Liberty Southwest Regional Director Matt Grooms, a Brigham Young University student spearheaded the effort.
“It’s a very bittersweet thing to do,” Grooms said.
Others donated the wood and helped them build the crosses for Tuesday’s display.
The men hoped people would take notice and take action.
“A lot of people are upset about this. Everyone acknowledges this is a crisis, but what we people can’t agree on is the solution,” said Anderson.
They believe people can do something right now by donating to local organizations that help with the mental health of youth, such as NAMI and Utah Family Therapy.
The memorial did catch the attention of many passersby.
“I think a lot of people talk online about it and social media and no one does anything, so I think it’s cool they’re doing something about it,” said Utah Valley University student Andi.
Tourists took pictures, and lawmakers saw it too.
There was a moment that was especially emotional for Anderson, “Earlier there was a group of kids that came by and I just try to imagine what it’s going to be like to explain to them. I wasn’t going to, but would it would be like to explain to these kids what we were doing at the Capitol. They were here all excited to be at the Capitol and this is the reality of the world in which we live.”
Anderson and Grooms hope they’ll never have to set up any more crosses ever again. Anderson hopes this initiative is “something we can try to work together, regardless of politics, to come together to help the youth in our community.”
The crosses — a reminder of the all too many innocent lives lost in school shootings — were allowed to be on display on the Capitol steps for three hours. It took the two men one hour to set them up and another to take them down.
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