Thousands of students across the nation walked out of classrooms and into a political firestorm Wednesday, marking one month since the bloody rampage at a Florida high school shocked the world and fueled their dynamic movement demanding an end to gun violence.
Students from about 2,800 schools marked National Walkout Day, many by leaving their classrooms at 10 a.m. to show solidarity for the 17 killed in the attack Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
In Parkland, students gathered on the football field, embraced and chanted, "MSD!" and "We want change!" Rejecting requests from administrators to return to classes, they joined students from a nearby middle school to walk 2 miles to memorials set up for the victims.
"To the parents supporting their children walking out, thank you for raising this new generation of leaders," tweeted Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky. "To the parents who didn’t support their children who walked out anyway, thank you for raising this new generation of leaders."
At Columbine High School south of Denver, hundreds of students solemnly filed onto the soccer field for a short rally. They released balloons to memorialize the Parkland victims, along with the 13 people killed at their own school 19 years ago.
“We should never go to school in fear of our lives,” said sophomore Leah Zundel, 15, as her voice broke. “Enough is enough.”
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In Washington, several hundred students of all ages massed outside the White House, waving signs and shouting: "What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!" Bella Graham, a seventh-grader at Takoma Park Middle School in Maryland, said she needed to support the students in Parkland.
“I shouldn’t have to be here,” said Graham, carrying a sign that read “An assault on our future” with a photo of a rifle. “I should be in school, but we have to stick up for ourselves and say enough is enough of this violence."
While the protests rolled on, Democrats in the Senate gave speeches and read the names of young people killed by gun violence. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., where the Sandy Hook tragedy took place more than five years ago, said the protesting students' "energy and passion is a civics lesson for America."
The National Rifle Association chimed in on Twitter, asking that "we work together to stop school violence" and pressing its case that banks and stadiums are better protected than schools. The NRA tweeted a picture of a semiautomatic rifle with the words "I'll control my own guns, thank you."
But this day's voice belonged to the students.
In Nevada, hundreds of North Valleys High School students filled the stands of their football stadium in Reno to release 17 balloons and hold a 17-second moment of silence. Freshman Marina Johnson held a sign that read, "Your children, not your guns."
"The memorial service is great," Johnson said. "But we can't just have a memorial service every time this happens."
In Indiana, 17 students at Herron High School near downtown Indianapolis stood in a circle and held photos of those who died in Parkland. Hundreds of students held signs reading "Never again" and "Enough is enough." Some chanted, "Make change now!" and "We deserve better!"
At some schools, the message was mixed. At Vero Beach High School, about 100 miles north of Parkland, scores of students gathered around a flagpole where their cries of “We want change!” and “Am I next?” were met with other students' chants of “Trump!” and “We want guns.”
At other schools, administrators discouraged the protests, warning that participation could result in disciplinary actions.
In Kentucky, more than 100 North Oldham High School student protesters face 30-minute detentions. The school banned protests for safety reasons, spokeswoman Lori McDowell said, adding that the "punishment was for defying authority, not for participating."
In South Carolina, the Greenville school district barred the news media from schools during the protests, hoping to discourage them. District spokeswoman Beth Brotherton said a student protest for gun control measures is a divisive act, and students should instead "focus on kindness." Many students at J.L. Mann and Hillcrest high schools walked out anyway.
At most schools, staff accommodated the planned demonstrations — some faculty even cheered on students.
In New Jersey, about 1,000 students silently walked the perimeter of Plainfield High School. Some school staff joined them.
“I am very proud of our students,” performing arts teacher Shaniesha Evans said. “This was their idea, and this is what they wanted to do.”
In Haddonfield, N.J., teachers held their own march before school. About 100 students, teachers, parents and administrators came together, many carrying signs or wearing orange ribbons.
"This walk is our way of showing our students we support them and believe in keeping them safe," said Stacey Brown, an English and special education teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School.
In Arizona, hundreds of students at Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale walked onto the campus football field, forming giant letters on the 50-yard line that spelled "ENOUGH."
"I know it's not just our school," senior Cassidy Crane said. "It's schools across the nation doing the same thing as us. It just takes a couple of people to stand up."
In Michigan, North Farmington High School students wore T-shirts with the hashtag #enough on the front and the names of the Florida shooting victims on the back. The students observed a six-minute moment of silence — the amount of time it took the Florida shooter to kill 17 people. Then they read the names of the victims — one every 17 seconds.
Wednesday's walkouts marked the first in a series of events in March and April organized by students across the nation as part of the #NeverAgain movement. Another walkout is scheduled for April 20 to mark the 19th year since the Columbine High School massacre.
A massive rally dubbed March for Our Lives is planned March 24 in Washington. The event is trying to attract 500,000 people and has spurred sister marches in every state.
In Minnesota, Genesis Knoblach was among about 100 students at St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville walking in freezing temperatures Wednesday to the steps in front of St. John's Abbey. They stood, shivering in silence, for 17 minutes.
"Yes, we are young. I know that," said Knoblach, a senior. "But you (students) are the people with so much power right now. You are the people who right now the world is looking to."
Follow Christal Hayes on Twitter: @Journo_Christal; John Bacon: @jmbacon
Contributing from USA TODAY NETWORK: Kristyn Wellesley, Sam Gross, Ricardo Cano, Kaila White, Lauren Castle, Phaedra Trethan, Hannah Sparling, Chris Mayhew, Mary Helen Moore, Arika Herron, Justin L. Mack, Paul Grzella, Lori Higgins, Justin Sayers, Jenny Berg and Sarah Nolan.