Emma González’s silence spoke as loud as her words on Saturday, as the survivor of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, took a prolonged and powerful pause while addressing the crowd at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.
“Six minutes and about 20 seconds,” said the teen when she first appeared onstage. “In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone in the Douglas community, was forever altered.”
González described the horrific day that a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing,” González said during her speech.
“No one understood the extent of what had happened,” she added. “No one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who had gone missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called. No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath or how far this would reach or where this would go. For those who still can’t comprehend, because they refuse to, I’ll tell you where it went: right into the ground, six feet deep.”
González then listed all of the victims’ names and talked about things they would never get to do again.
When she finished the list, the teary-eyed teen stayed silent. When she finally spoke again, she revealed that it had been exactly six minutes and 20 seconds since she had started her speech.
“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds,” González said before leaving the stage. “The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your life, before it’s someone else’s job.”
Many on social media commended the teenager for her bravery:
González, 18, has become one of the country’s leading voices for gun control in the last month. She is featured on the cover of Time magazine this week and on Friday published an essay for Teen Vogue about how the U.S. needs to stop gun violence.
In an interview with HuffPost before the march, González said she had big hopes for the turnout and was inspired to talk because she “kind of realized that the learned helplessness is coming to an end.”
“There are no consequences for us to speak our mind,” she said. “The country was built for us to share our opinions and to vote our conscience and to get our opinions and decisions heard. So, that’s what we’re gonna do.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that González was silent for six minutes and 20 seconds.