FALLS CHURCH, Va. - It was a call for tougher gun control laws and a show of solidarity with the people in Parkland, Florida, as a group of mothers organized a rally and candlelight vigil in Virginia.
Hundreds of people gathered at George Mason High School in Falls Church and the message they wanted to send is the epidemic of gun violence needs to end now.
The group, Moms Demand Action, organized Monday night’s event and many of those that attended were parents from across the D.C. region and their school-aged children.
A fifth grade student said she came because she wanted to honor the memory of one of the shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“Yesterday, I was at a dance competition and they mentioned this girl Jaime Guttenberg. She was in the shooting and she was a dancer who competed too,” she said. “It’s just so sad that we have to worry about this and it's very deep."
“I'm happy that I came because I feel like my generation can make a difference now,” said another student.
“I would like policy change," said one mother. "I would like for all of our politicians to unite regardless of what side they are on and realize that our children are important.”
Many people wrote messages of hope, love and support for Parkland on paper hearts hung inside the Virginia school. During the rally, several gun violence survivors spoke, including one woman who was a student at Columbine High School during the shooting there in 1999.
“It is unfathomable and I feel bad after 19 years. I have gone through every emotion,” said Salli Garrigan. “Now more and more after Sandy Hook. It was more, ‘No, I have to say something.’ I actually need to speak out and use my voice to make a difference and this needs to end.”
“It seems like because this was a high school shooting, a lot of young people are energized, and even the ones that can't vote yet,” said Carmen Lodato. “If they are getting their friends to register or just like caring about this issue, it's so important.”
Lodato’s mother was shot and killed inside their Alexandria home in 2014. The school shooting in Florida is not just a reminder of horrific mass shootings, but also of the gun violence that affects families across the country every day.
But the hope in Falls Church on Monday night was that the tragedy that happened in Florida will be the last straw.