We knew they'd be powerful and poignant. And they still amazed us.

From the very beginning, the student activists at the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C., grabbed our attention and didn't let go.

And they had a message for our nation's political leaders who still haven't taken meaningful action on gun violence:


"Either represent the people or get out," Parkland, Florida, student Cameron Kasky said, kicking off the day's string of incredible speeches. "Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming."

It was more than an inspiring speech; it was a direct call to action with specific demands — a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and a call for universal background checks.

"This is more than just a march," Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Delaney Tarr said soon after. "This is more than just one day, one event, then moving on."

As much as their stories have moved us emotionally, Tarr and those who followed her quickly made it clear their purpose was about real, tangible action.

"We will continue to fight for common sense. We will continue to fight for our lives. We will continue to fight for our dead friends."

But one student in particular made an unforgettable impression on the crowd.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

When Washington, D.C., native Zion Kelly took the stage, he shared a heartbreaking story of losing his twin brother Zaire to gun violence. "Today, I raise my hand in honor of my twin brother, Zaire Kelly," he said, speaking with a clear tone of strength and conviction even as tears filled his eyes.

Kelly then asked those in attendance, "Raise your hand if you've been affected by gun violence."

17-year-old Zaire was killed by an armed assailant while walking home from a college-prep class in September 2017. Zion and his family have been working to support gun safety measures in D.C.

"Just like you, I've had enough," he said.

It was a powerful moment, where cameras captured the fact that the entire section in front of the stage was reserved for those directly affected by gun violence, connecting direct faces with the epidemic.

We saw the next generation of leaders step forward — and the future is brighter than ever.

They made us cry and made us angry with their stories of pain and frustration. But the young adults speaking in Washington, D.C., and at rallies around the country also made it clear they have taken charge of a movement that adults have failed to make real progress on.

It's a youth-driven political movement unlike any America has seen since the Vietnam War and one that is fueled by a generation better equipped to use new tools of activism like social media to move past the forces that stand in their way.

Read more on the March for Our Lives with stories on Parkland student Emma Gonzalez’s emotional silence, outstanding protest signs, photos from around the country, and moving words from little kids.

And if you want to support the anti-gun-violence movement, we have a quiz for the best way you can help.

For some people, every day is Independence Day. For Janis Shinwari, this will be his first 4th of July as an American citizen. And boy, he earned it.

"If I was in Afghanistan—if I didn't come here, I wouldn't be alive now. I would be dead." Shinwari told CNN Heroes in 2018. Shinwari risked his life for nine years serving as a translator for U.S. forces in his native country of Afghanistan. He risked his life everyday knowing that should he be caught by the Taliban, the consequences would be severe. "If the Taliban catch you, they will torture you in front of your kids and families and make a film of you." Shinwari said. "Then [they'll] send it to other translators as a warning message to stop working with the American forces."

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