Attendees of a vigil for the victims of the latest...

Attendees of a vigil for the victims of the latest school shooting in Texas, listen to speakers at the Arizona Capitol on May 21 in Phoenix. Credit: AP / Ross D. Franklin

The hashtag started last week, two days after 10 people were gunned down at Santa Fe High School in Texas.


Tens of thousands of teens have used it on Twitter since then to tell the nation what they’re thinking. 

@florixnne #IfIDieInASchoolShooting it would mean my biggest fear came true.

Andrew Schneidawind, 18, a college freshman from Virginia, created the hashtag. He told Teen Vogue he’s scared and sits in lectures plotting escape routes. The torrent he unleashed shows lots of kids are thinking about dying, too. 

@megnolannn #IfIDieInASchoolShooting my name will be in the news for a little while until another group of kids are gone despite begging for change

The matter-of-fact tone is a wrenching echo of what Santa Fe student Paige Curry said: “I always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.” Many others are naked in their anger. 

@isalovescarbs #IfIDieInASchoolShooting throw my ashes in the face of every politician against common sense gun laws. Make them feel the person they killed against their skin, under their nails, in their hair. Don’t let them forget.

Study the thread and common themes emerge. Throw my body on the steps of White House, the Capitol, the National Rifle Association. Fight for gun control. A smaller number fight for gun rights. But many simply lament — dreams they’ll never fulfill, people they’ll never see, lives they’ll never live. 

@skyfan152 #IfIDieInASchoolShooting please tell the only girl I love that I would’ve liked to be able to spend the rest of my life with her.

@can_you_luv_me #IfIDieInASchoolShooting Tell my baby brother who I am, he won’t remember me . . .

@LeslieDarnell7 #IfIDieInASchoolShooting I will never see what It feels like to graduate, get married, have kids.

@Blaney12Fan #IfIDieInASchoolShooting , tell my parents that I love them. tell my friends that they were the best family I ever had.

Teachers use the forum to talk about dying while protecting their students. Other adults call the hashtag the saddest thing they’ve seen. But most of the tweeters are teens. Some are prolific on Twitter, some hardly use it at all. But they’re incredibly poignant. They don’t want to be forgotten, they want their lives to have meaning, and they hope their deaths spark change. 

@MenaHatter #ifidieinaschoolshooting I want my body to go in a museum as the last person to have to die in a school shooting

@flirefies #IfIDieInASchoolShooting I wanna let my niece & nephew know that school shouldn’t be something to fear

I worry that the ardor of the kids who lately have fueled the push for action will fade. But then you read these tweets and you realize they’re not going anywhere. 

@romey18fl #IfIdieInASchoolShooting It’s because I live in America.

@haileerachel #IfIDieInASchoolShooting don’t let it be for nothing.

As much as they need to speak, we need to listen.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.