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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

One year later: Community links arms to honor victims of Covenant School shooting and call for gun reform

Voices for a Safer Tennessee led the effort to create a human chain from VUMC to the Tennessee State Capitol.
Alysa Suleiman
Chalk-art written on the walls around Centennial Park reading “Covenant Strong.” (Hustler Multimedia/Alysa Suleiman)

On the one-year anniversary of the Covenant School shooting, Voices for a Safer Tennessee organized Linking Arms for Change, in which 13,000 demonstrators linked arms to create a four-mile-long human chain from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital to the Tennessee State Capitol. This is the second time this event has happened — another one was held directly after the shooting last year. 

Beginning at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the chain extended from 21st Ave. S. and continued through Broadway, 8th Ave. S., Church St. and 6th Ave. N. until demonstrators arrived at the Capitol on Charlotte Ave. Demonstrators wore bright red to advocate for gun reform. 

“It was a beautiful day, and it’s always fun when people who like each other and are working on an issue together can get together,” Linda McFadyen-Ketchum, Tennessee Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action, said. “It wasn’t particularly somber — when we joined hands at 5:15 [p.m. CDT], we were silent and stood there and people drove by and looked at us. It was serious, but not terribly sad. I guess we all cried our tears months and months ago. But it was an important thing to honor and remember those people.”

Lining up in the human chain, children chanted “We don’t want no guns, we want safety” and “Arms are for hugging.” Demonstrators linked arms and sang “This Little Light of Mine,” often used during peaceful protests dating back to the Civil Rights movement.

A volunteer smiles as attendees began singing while linking arms around 5:15 p.m. (Hustler Multimedia/Alysa Suleiman)
Two children holding Voices for a Safer Tennessee signs cheer on passing by cars honking in solidarity. (Hustler Multimedia/Alysa Suleiman)

“From the day it happened, we became more united than ever. Many of us are parents, many of us have our own children that we thought about that day, and people that don’t have children are humans and want

to keep other people safe in our community,” Magda Schleicher, Moms Demand Action volunteer, said. “So [from] that day to now, one year later, the biggest change in this whole year is knowing we have each others’ backs and support each other.”

Students wrote the names of the shooting’s six victims in chalk on the sidewalk: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Mike Hill, William Kinney, Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak and Hallie Scruggs. Cars honked their horns in support of the demonstration. 

Sophomore Caroline Byrd writes the names of the Covenant School shooting victims on the sidewalk in chalk, as photographed on March 27, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Alysa Suleiman)

“When you get to know people who have had loved ones get taken in shootings, one thing they all say that they most want, other than getting their person back which they know they won’t, they want their person to be remembered,” McFadyen-Ketchum said. “They don’t want the fact that they were on this Earth to be forgotten. So when we do events like today, where we remember them, it is very comforting for people who are dealing with the trauma and grief of gun violence.”

Sophomore Caroline Byrd, a human chain participant and Nashville native, said the shooting was impactful due to its proximity to home.

“My mom also was a teacher for a while, so it was just a very close to home thing to happen,” Byrd said. “I feel like gun violence is such an epidemic that has affected everyone I know to the point where it’s a health crisis that we need to fix.”

Joel Harrington, a professor of history at Vanderbilt, commended the organizers of the human chain for continuing to spread awareness of gun violence and honoring those whose lives were taken. He had his students observe a moment of silence in his classes throughout the day. 

“These shootings have become so common, we can tune them out. Most of us who live in Nashville are connected to these people who were killed by second or third degree. So it’s very real for us, and I don’t know that it was for the students. I just wanted them to have an immediate sense of this problem,” Harrington said. “When these things happen, they have to be made real, and they don’t remain abstractions, because when they’re abstractions, it’s easy to sort of brush away and say, ‘well, nothing to do about it.’ So I hope it has some effect.”

Voices for a Safer Tennessee and Moms Demand Action are continuing to fight for gun reform in Tennessee. According to McFadyen-Ketchum, despite these efforts, there has not been much progress over the past year. 

“The Tennessee General Assembly has done nothing for several years except making things worse by relaxing our gun laws,” McFadyen-Ketchum said. “Right now, they are in session, but they are doing nothing significant. People continue to die in this state — children are going to continue to get their hands on guns because we can’t get it together. Our legislators have relaxed our gun laws for the past 10 years, and we are in a terrible situation right now with way too many people being killed and injured.”

Despite this apparent inaction, McFayden-Ketchum and Schleicher encouraged citizens to continue advocating for gun reform and to continue to remember the Covenant School shooting.  

“We can’t give up; people need to keep going. There is going to be an end at some point, and we know we will get there sooner or later, and people need to keep fighting,” Leeron Stark Resnick, Moms Demand Action volunteer said. “Really from the day this happened, Voices for a Safer Tennessee came to be the next day. It was quick to action, we all banded together and really have created something great.”

In a statement shared on social media, the Covenant School expressed their gratitude for the support provided by the Nashville community. They reaffirmed their commitment to prioritizing the healing of their staff and student body. 

“As we mark this painful anniversary, we find solace in the light that has emerged from the darkness,” the statement reads. “It is with profound gratitude that we acknowledge the overwhelming outpouring of love and support we have received from our local Nashville community and around the world. Your kindness has been a beacon of hope, and the depth of your generosity profoundly moves us.”

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About the Contributors
Rhea Patney
Rhea Patney, Managing Editor
Rhea Patney (‘26) is majoring in medicine, health and society and communication of science and technology on the pre-med track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from St. Louis and previously served as Deputy Data Director. When not writing for The Hustler, Rhea loves reading, starting new TV shows and struggling to finish them, playing sports and watching sunsets with her friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
Alysa Suleiman
Alysa Suleiman, Social Media Editor
Alysa Suleiman (‘26) is from Cupertino, Calif., and is majoring in political science and communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. As a amateur cook, she also enjoys testing out dorm recipes as often as possible. You can reach her at [email protected].
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