Elon marks one-year anniversary of Parkland shooting with vigil, performance

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting left 17 dead, played a role in Thursday's events, which focused on remembering those who died and pushing for an end to gun violence.

Elon students in the Musical Theatre Program perform "Seasons of Love" from the award-winning musical "Rent."

The Elon University community gathered on Thursday — for song, for silence and to speak loudly — to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and staff members dead. 

The impact of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been felt at Elon, which includes multiple alumni of the Florida high school and others who have close ties to the school and the area. That made Thursday's events even more poignant, as Elon students, faculty and staff gathered to mark the anniversary of the tragedy.

Dozens gathered in the amphitheater in front of Lindner Hall on Thursday morning for a vigil focused on remembering those who died, but also with a call to lobby for gun control reform and an end to gun violence. Lauryn Adams, president of the Class of 2022, recalled during her comments a march in Atlanta she made with others following the Parkland shooting to push for reform. 

She found that many weren't listening to her message of reform, but noted that there is more advocates can do. Anyone can be subject to the tragedy of gun violence, she said. 

"This is a reality that should not be," Adams told the crowd. "Let's talk today about not just honoring the victims, but the lives all around us."

Kali Clougherty '22, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumna, speaks during the vigil Thursday morning. 
Kali Clougherty '22, who was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas when the shooting occurred, said it means the world to her that so many are gathering to honor those who died. "I am here today to spread the love and to live my life for the 17 who can't." 

Clougherty then joined her Elon classmates in the Musical Theatre Program to perform "Seasons of Love" from the award-winning musical "Rent." The moving song is the same that Cloughtery performed with her Marjory Stoneman Douglas classmates last year at the Tony Awards, to much acclaim. 

Thursday afternoon Clougherty took the stage in Yeager Recital Hall in the Center for the Arts to welcome an audience gathered for a staged reading of the play "Church & State" by Jason Odell Williams. Elon was one of eight colleges and universities around the country to participate in readings of the play on the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, and Clougherty was selected to direct the production. 

Written by Jason Odell Williams, “Church & State” tells the story of a senator running for re-election that explores how religion, guns and social media influence the American political system. The work looks at how the senator examines his position on the Second Amendment following a shooting at his children’s school.

The production was coordinated with production company NewYorkRep and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and was followed by a discussion. 

Other schools participating were UCLA, Butler University, the University of Kansas, Tulane University, Point Park University in Pittsburgh, the New World School of the Arts in Miami and The University of Chicago. More on the nationwide effort is available here.

“This is our way as actors and performers to give back and to do our part for activism through the arts,” Clougherty said earlier in the week about the performance. “It gives people a chance to understand and listen instead of fight and cause division.”