The parents of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, a student killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, were in Springfield Friday night.
Manuel Oliver was wearing Joaquin’s sneakers, literally walking in his shoes, to make sure his son’s perspective was part of the conversation.
“We decided we wanted Joaquin to be part of this in any possible way,” Oliver told 22News.
As part of a community conversation on gun violence, organized by March For Our Lives, the Olivers were joined by local high school students hoping to start a dialogue.
Some of the students said fear has become part of their school day.
“After the Parkland shooting, I had to start thinking about it more,” Jamison Rohan, a sophomore at Minnechaug Regional High School said. “I was walking out of a math test once to go to the bathroom, thinking ‘I don’t have my phone on me, where do I run if someone comes into the building? I’m on the second floor, do I run into a classroom, or do I just run?”
Manuel Oliver said differing opinions must be a part of the dialogue to make real progress.
“I think that we need to cross that barrier,” Oliver said. “I am open to have a whole room like this one, that are packed with people that are thinking the opposite of what I’m thinking. That is our duty now.”
Springfield was one of 17 cities where Joaquin’s parents will be taking part in community conversations.