Katie Silverman will be in Washington, D.C. Saturday, marching on her 18th birthday to stand in solidarity with victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Silverman isn't going as just a student activist; she's a former Parkland resident who lost two friends in the shooting.
Silverman, a senior at Southlake Carroll Senior High School, attended middle school with Meadow Pollack and Joaquin Oliver, both of whom were shot and killed by the gunman.
She keeps in touch with her Parkland friends on social media and on Feb. 14, when she heard a gunman had attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School , she became paralyzed with fear.
"I felt it was a hoax at first," Silverman said. "It didn't seem like that could happen."
As the news stories began to report a growing list of victims, Silverman said she was struck by reality: "Oh my God, I am going to know someone."
It wasn't long until she learned that two of the victims had been friends.
Pollack, an 18-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, was described by a cousin "as a beautiful girl, inside and out."
Oliver, 17, who had become a U.S. citizen in 2017, was a huge Miami Heat fan and was buried in a Dwayne Wade jersey. Wade was touched by Oliver's death and dedicated the season to Oliver and wrote the teen's name on his sneakers.
Sliverman monitored news of the shooting through the night and into the next morning — until she couldn't stand it anymore.
"I didn't want to hear anymore about the shooter," Silverman said of Nichols Cruz, the teen accused in the shootings. "I went from sadness to almost denial and then to anger."
She has now channeled her anger into activism and on Saturday will be among hundreds of thousands of young people taking part in March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. More than 800 similar marches and rallies are scheduled in cities across the nation and world, including Fort Worth and Dallas. The marches and rallies come as communities and schools work to reduce gun violence and increase school safety.
'These kids are the ones'
Silverman recently took part in a student walkout at Carroll Senior High School. She was among 650 students who walked out from four campuses in Southlake Carroll schools. On Feb. 26, she spoke before the Carroll school board about the issue of gun violence and schools.
"... I lost friends," Silverman told the Carroll school board. "Tonight, I want to speak about school safety in honor of my friends, Meadow Pollack and Joaquin Oliver, whose lives were taken from them. As a community, it is our responsibility to make sure this never happens again."
Her mother, Lisa Silverman, said her daughter also petitioned school administrators to give participants of the walkouts "tardies" instead of unexcused absences. She said her daughter was adamant about celebrating her birthday by marching.
The Silvermans are trying to bring attention to Meadow's Movement, which is focused on reforming gun laws. Mother and daughter are also promoting, Change The Ref, an effort by Oliver's family to empower young people.
"These kids are the ones who are going to make a change," Lisa Silverman said.
'Common sense gun laws'
Silverman said while she has been shy and quiet in the past, she is committed to pushing for "common sense gun laws" and raising the age of when people can buy guns.
"When I come back to Texas, I don't want it to end," she said, adding that she is already planning to take the message to Austin during the next Legislative session.
Silverman acknowledges in Texas gun reform might be a "hard sale," but she is ready to tackle the debate. She said she has already been tested by older critics on social media one of whom called her "Stalin." Joseph Stalin was a former leader for the former Soviet Union, who was known for purges against opponents.
"They just don't believe kids can do this with their heart," she said.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.