Only the revelation of truth will lead to victory. Corin had just delivered carnations to the building to raise funds for junior prom; she had handed one flower to a girl who was shot minutes later. After the fire alarm went off during his AP environmental science class, Hogg took a video of students crouching inside a tiny classroom to hide from the shooter. The video went viral, landing him a recurring spot on the cable-TV circuit. The next day, Kasky invited Wind and Corin over to his house to plan a march for gun reform.
Together, they started the NeverAgain hashtag on Twitter. Most of these kids cannot vote, order a beer, make a hotel reservation or afford a pizza without pooling some of their allowance. Yet over the past month, these students have become the central organizers of what may turn out to be the most powerful grassroots gun-reform movement in nearly two decades.
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For much of the rest of the country, numbed and depressed by repeated mass shootings, the question has become, Can these kids actually do it? Gun violence in America is one of those problems that can feel truly hopeless. The U. After Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six staff members at a Connecticut elementary school in December , politicians tried to tackle the issue. President Obama issued Executive Orders to strengthen the background-check system and study gun violence, and several states tightened gun restrictions.
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Yet Congress failed to pass a modest bipartisan bill to close loopholes for gun sales. In the five years since, a familiar pattern has emerged. But it was exhausting work. So they debated whether to jump in the water and swim for it. Should only Samu go? Should they all go? They couldn't decide. And the boat motored away. They felt terrible. They wondered if that was their only chance, if they'd die before seeing another ship. They thought about all the food on that boat. The warmth.
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The beds. They blamed one another for not jumping in the water and at least making an active attempt at saving their lives. Now all they could do was sit in their dinghy and wait. Soon after the ship passed, Etueni quit.
He stopped talking. He curled up in the bow. He didn't even sit up—he just lay all day in the bottom of the boat, mute. Mostly unmoving. Eyes half-lidded. He did this for weeks.
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Starvation is an insidious process. After the body consumes all the food in your stomach and small intestine—a point the boys had passed weeks before—the energy stored in fat comes next. When all available fat has been consumed, your body turns on muscle tissue. You're basically being eaten alive, from the inside. The nagging in your stomach, your body crying for nourishment, is constant and unstoppable. Physical strength is sapped. It's difficult to think clearly. Everything seems to happen in slow motion.
The boys developed, in all their fingernails and toenails, a noted sign of deep starvation, a ragged white square in the middle of each nail. Their hair started to fall out.
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Etueni's breakdown infuriated Samu. Filo was neutral about it, but Samu understood that if they wanted to survive, they needed to work together. He'd just lay there. Etueni was locked in his own world. His tongue refused to work. Seawater didn't help. Nothing helped.
I couldn't get rid of it, no matter what I did. Phrases repeated in his head, over and over, for hours. Why did I come? He considered stabbing himself with the machete. But it had grown rusty and dull.
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He finally arrived at a plan. He'd tie the cord from the engine around his leg, detach the engine from the boat, and jump over the side. Back in Atafu, as the weeks passed and there was no sign of the boys, people weren't sure what to do. At the school, they left the boys' desks empty.
The fishermen never really stopped searching. They'd glance extra long at the horizon. Every morning people walked the beach, looking for a sign. Filo's father, Tanu Filo, says he had frequent dreams about his son in which he could see Filo but couldn't talk to him. His mind told him there was no hope, but his dreams said otherwise. He felt helpless.
He stopped working, went to the beach, and put up a tent. He stayed there many nights, staring out to sea. The ulu was in a difficult position. He wanted closure but couldn't prematurely declare the boys dead. He was related to all three.