Members of the Ole Miss and Oxford communities came together Tuesday night to walk in the “A Walk for Champions” vigil in honor of the survivors and lives lost in the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Lexy Johnson, a senior integrated marketing communications major who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2014, organized the walk for her alma mater.
“Parkland is my first home, and Oxford is my second home, and everyone here is family to me, so it’s great seeing that my second family in Oxford is showing support for my first family in south Florida,” she said.
Johnson said she decided to organize the walk because she couldn’t be there alongside her former classmates to show condolences to the families affected.
“I knew I needed to do something here to show that we support them and we stand with them,” Johnson said. “Wednesday is their first day back at school so it actually worked out great that they get as much support as they can before they walk into those doors tomorrow.”
The walk, which took participants from the Walk of Champions to the Lyceum, was recorded on video and sent to Ty Thompson, the principal of MSD High School. Johnson said she hopes the video offers encouragement to students and faculty.
Johnson gave a speech before the event to thank those who came out and remind them of the importance of the walk.
“We aren’t gathered here tonight to talk about the senseless act of gun violence but instead to honor the victims affected by this tragedy,” Johnson said. “We want to be the light in their darkness and guide them through this really dark and tragic time. They’re Eagles. We want to help them soar again.”
The Meek School of Journalism and New Media sponsored the walk, and many faculty and staff, like integrated marketing communications instructor Debbie Woodrick Hall, helped Johnson put the walk together.
“Alexa is one of my current students, and I found out this week that one of my former students actually has a younger sister that was in the building when the shooter began attacking those students,” Hall said. “This one hit home to me. It’s very close to my heart.”
Hall said she participated in the walk to support not only those affected by this shooting but also those taking a stand in Oxford and in Parkland.
“I think they’re going to make a difference, and I’m proud of them,” Hall said. “I want to support our kids and the kids in Florida, as well.”
Caroline Franco, a sophomore general business major, was also in attendance last night due to her personal connection with the recent event.
“I’m from Fort Lauderdale, and it was a big impact on our entire community,” Franco said. “Also, just everyone needs to support this, whether you’re from south Florida or not. It’s a great group of people, and they need the support now more than ever.”