On Feb. 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lost 17 victims to a tragic mass shooting.
In the days and weeks afterward, as students and families grieved and returned to class, many of the teens who attend the Parkland, Florida, high school have been speaking out about their experiences and demanding there be changes in gun safety legislation so that something like this can never happen again.
As part of a social media initiative called #whatif, photojournalist Jeff Vespa captured some students’ heart-wrenching tales of survival — and their determination to create a future free of gun violence.
Their powerful words and portraits are featured in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Watch the full episode of Voices of Parkland Survivors, streaming now on PeopleTV. Go to People.com/peopletv, or download the app on your favorite streaming device.
Sixteen-year-old junior Madison Leal says her heart aches for the 17 people who will never return to their loved ones.
“My heart aches 17 times for our coaches, teachers, siblings that we have to bury,” she says in the video above. “In the name of 17 lives, I refuse to let another soul be taken due to gun violence without taking action.”
The teens have planned the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24 to demand changes in gun legislation and already the event has expanded to include more than 400 related demonstrations in cities across the globe.