Sarah Burgess, 20, was a freshman in French class at Chardon High School when she heard screaming coming from a nearby hallway.

That was in February 2012, and a 17-year-old boy had brought a semiautomatic pistol into the school cafeteria and began shooting. The boy killed three students and wounded three others.

“They can’t be brought back to their families. ... It’s been enough,” Burgess, now a University of Akron student in biology and geology, told about 200 people who turned out Wednesday morning for a rally outside Bierce Library on the UA campus.

The demonstration was part of National School Walkout Day in the wake of mass shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

UA student Megan Delong, 21, organized the event after Kara Kvaran, a professor of women’s studies at UA, mentioned in one of Delong’s classses that UA was lacking an event for the day.

So Delong put up flyers and promoted the Public Walkout for Change, part of the national effort spearheaded by Empower, which organized the national Women’s March last year.

Wednesday’s walkouts — from 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m. — were about honoring the lives of the 17 people killed in the Florida shooting and to call for more gun control measures.

“I’m passionate about gun reform in the wake of the Parkland shooting,” Delong said before the rally.

While many of the events across the country included 17 minutes of silence — one for each of the victims — UA’s rally did not, instead featuring several speakers who took turns using a megaphone.

“This is where it starts,” Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples told the crowd standing in the cold Wednesday morning. “You guys are the change agent.”

Samples urged attendees to press elected officials for gun control measures and to vote for candidates that support such actions.

Shannon Conrad Wokojance, Barberton City Council member, said legal authorities need to do more to remove guns from the homes of those accused of domestic violence.

With guns, she said, an abuser can turn into a killer.

“I believe democracy dies in silence,” speaker UA student Corey Cargill, 22, of Solon, told the group. He urged people to attend a March 22 conversation he is putting together about gun violence and gun control at Bierce Library. The forum will be in Room 168 and is scheduled to run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

He is encouraging people on both sides of the issue of gun control to attend.

“Positive change is the ultimate human currency,” said Cargill, who is studying graphic design.

Delong, who is studying sociology and graduated from Akron’s Ellet High School, told the group: “I don’t want our action to end here,” and urged attendees to register to vote and “vote for what you believe in.”

She encouraged people to attend the Akron March for Our Lives for gun law reform on at 11 a.m. March 24 at the Highland Square branch of Akron-Summit County Public Library.

She also noted that more school walkouts are planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Shortly after the rally wound up, Sarah Burgess, who was at Chardon High during the 2012 shootings, said she hadn’t planned to speak at the rally.

“It’s really hard to be silent,” she said.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or

“They can’t be brought back to their families. ... It’s been enough.”

Sarah Burgess

Former Chardon High school student, commenting at a rally at the University of Akron