Speaking in Front of the South Carolina State House


Eva Chillura, Staff Writer

There were almost 200 people. Some students, some legislators, most moms.
All angry. Wanting change. And me — a sophomore, a 15 year old, the youngest person at the gun safety rally. Not only the youngest there but the youngest person that spoke.
I had never done public speaking in any context before Feb. 27 — the day senior Carly Knight and I drove up to Columbia and spoke on the Capitol steps.
At first, Carly and I were just skipping the school day, which we never do, to go view the s516 subcommittee hearing and participate in the rally. It was not until 8:30 that morning when we found out we could speak.
Carly and I looked at each other and agreed — we have to speak. Being so passionate about improving our gun safety situation, we knew it had to be done and be done by students.
So we got back into Carly’s Subaru at hit the road.
I took out some scratch graph paper and a pen, and we started to brainstorm. We struggled back and forth with what to say, how to say it and what mattered the most to us, all the while working on a two hour time restraint.
Carly taught me some of what she had learned through years of creative writing and coached through something I had never done before. I was transcribing everything she said while we both nervously ate half a box of Girl Scout cookies.
Brainstorming, transcribing and reciting over and over again until I finally looked up and saw the familiar brick, homey architecture of downtown Columbia.
I took a deep breath.
We got to the corner of Assembly Street and Gervais Street and saw the massive dome on top of the white marble structure of the South Carolina Statehouse.
Carly and I put our phones, bags and the scribbled-on graph paper in the small black bucket and slowly walked through the metal detectors.
“Is this what it might be like in our school in a couple years?” I whispered to her.
These thoughts have been eminent in our minds for years, but they have been especially provoking in the recent weeks since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. These thoughts pressed Carly’s and my minds as we wrote our speech and carried ourselves through that day.
We walked into the small room for the s516 subcommittee hearing filled with moms, senators and other citizens from all over South Carolina. This s516 bill would, in simple words, increase the days from three to five days for the background checks in the process of purchasing guns.
Many supported this bill, including Rev. Eric Manning, senior pastor at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, who said that even though s516 is not enough for the action we need to see, it is a very good start. Others argued that it is not enough, and lawmakers would be settling for s516.
Viewing how the actual process of our state government works was incredible. Carly and I both were intrigued the entire time.
After we left the meeting, it was time to speak.
Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Carly and I recite our speeches while the crowd of close to 200 people were accumulating around the Statehouse steps.
I took a deep breath.
Various speakers including mayor candidates, senators and numerous active citizens spoke as well. Then it was our turn.
We stepped up to the podium and into the noon sunlight, looking down at the sea of people in red shirts. Carly spoke, and she spoke with great eloquently. It was my turn.
I took a deep breath.
I recited my speech one last time that day with one of my best and most supportive friends and inspirations standing by my side.
I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I would and will do it again and again until everyone — including myself — feels safe coming to school.
It was only until after speaking when I realized that we had made an impact. However small it was or who actually listened, we as high schoolers became a part of this movement — a movement lead by strong and powerful students.