ARHS Alumni Hold Protest Following Recent Mass Shootings
NORTHBOROUGH – Members of the Northborough community dressed in orange and gathered in the Town Common on Sunday to demonstrate against gun violence following recent shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, State. from New York
As organizer Sarah Saeed described it, orange is the color hunters wear in the woods for protection.
“It’s a color of visibility and so it’s become the color of the anti-gun violence movement,” Saeed told the Community Advocate.
ARHS Graduates Host Event
Saeed and fellow organizer Kathryn Zaia graduated from Algonquin Regional High School in 2021.
In the past, they have used protests like this as a way to address other issues that matter to them. Zaia said they wanted to create a space for people to “come together and mourn the lives lost and issue a call to action for the community.”
“We’re tired of things like this happening,” Saeed said. “We are tired of having to organize protests like this, but we believe it is necessary.”
Saeed added that she and Zaia wanted to give current Algonquin students “a platform to share their voices.”
“That’s why we are here today,” she said.
State Representative Discusses Gun Violence
Among the attendees on Sunday was State Representative Meghan Kilcoyne whose district includes part of Northborough. Kilcoyne said organizers contacted her to ask her to be there and listen to their concerns.
“Unfortunately, it’s yet another mass shooting that happened at a school,” she said. “For me, anything I can do to make sure students are heard, that we’re listening, and that we’re actively trying to address the root cause is really important to me.”
Kilcoyne was a child following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. She said she remembered the trauma of the shooting and recalled teachers trying to make sure students were okay. During the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Kilcoyne was working then. as a staff member in former Rep. Harold Naughton’s office, where she worked on updating firearms policies.
She noted that the children who died in the Sandy Hook shooting would be around the same age as some of the students at this weekend’s event in Northborough.
“It’s devastating to me that we’re here again,” Kilcoyne said.
“There are too many to count”
The recent shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 students and two teachers dead.
It happened just a week after a gunman killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket.
Participants in the protest in Northborough remembered each of the victims.
“It sounds a little too familiar,” Saeed said. “Before Uvalde it was Oxford, and before that – Santa Clarita, and before that – Parkland, and before that – Marshall County, and North Park, and Sandy Hook, and Chardon, and Cleveland, and Blacksburg, and Santana.”
“I could go on,” she continued. “There are too many to count; too many students we failed to protect; too many families destroyed.
Current and former ARHS students speak
Events in Northborough this weekend included a performance of John Denver’s “Sail Away Home” by Carly Mahowald as well as speeches by former and current Algonquin students.
Junior Sara Medina spoke about mental illness. Sophomore Ava Arcona has explained how people are “desensitized to the horrors of gun violence in America.”
“As a nation we are so used to these tragedies that news of another school shooting was just a drop in the ocean, but as students the danger seems very real and very close,” Arcona said.
She recalled an incident in November where an ARHS staff member accidentally triggered an emergency lockdown announcement during the passing time. Over the public address system, a voice told students and staff that there was an active shooter on campus, advising individuals to take cover immediately.
“Immediately we were thrown into disarray,” Arcona said. “Students rushed through the hallways, crowding into classrooms while still having no idea what was going on.”
She said she remembered the “look of panic” on a teacher’s face as he “frantically” waved students into his classroom.
Principal Sean Bevan discussed the incident in an email to the Community Advocate on Wednesday, explaining that a staff member “inadvertently engaged a pre-recorded message” announcing that the school was going to be closed.
“She immediately announced it was a mistake and we weren’t in lockdown, and I announced something similar right after,” Bevan wrote.
He shared an email that had been sent to students, staff and families explaining what had happened. The email said the school was using the error as an opportunity to strengthen its security protocols, including how and when they use the lockdown protocol.
Bevan said they immediately disabled the feature and haven’t had any issues since.
Arcona said it was “business as usual” at ARHS after the announcement.
“After the adrenaline subsided, all I felt was fatigue,” she said.
Arcona said she felt the same exhaustion when she heard the news of Uvalde’s shooting, just as she felt the exhaustion during lockdown drills.
She further criticized lawmakers who “do nothing to prevent gun violence from happening” and act in surprise when another shooting occurs.
“We no longer feel safe where we spend the majority of our time,” Arcona said. “This can’t be our new normal.”
“Students, children, adults dying because we’re too scared to regulate our precious guns, that’s not normal,” she continued. “Police standing outside the scene waiting to be rescued is not normal. I hope you all hear this and decide enough is enough.
‘Let’s work together to create a kinder world’
Speeches continued on Sunday, with speakers calling for gun violence protection laws, universal background checks and a ban on automatic rifles.
They also called on individuals to make their voices heard.
Medina called gun control “extremely vital,” noting that elementary school shooters Robb and Sandy Hook should not have had access to the guns they were using.
“But the focus, following the mass shootings, is exclusively on gun control,” she said. “And while gun control is undoubtedly necessary, the political divide over gun rights is distracting from other factors that contribute to violence.”
Medina said community members should know more about mental illness and be willing to talk openly about issues.
“Let’s work together to create a kinder world where mental health is a top priority, and embrace the future with a movement that finally breaks the numbing cycle of school shootings,” Medina said. “America’s future is in our hands. So let’s be the change.
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