Washington (CNN)The first wave of students are in the nation's capital ahead of their mass protest Saturday.
The Parkland students ride wave of support before march
The children from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School rode on a plane. But being with them, it seems more like they are riding a massive wave of public support.
On their plane, a flight attendant used the intercom to thank the students for their action following last month's massacre that killed 17 people at their school in Parkland, Florida. "I really applaud you guys. ... Bless you guys," she said before leading a round of applause.
The students, in their maroon school T-shirts, are now a recognizable force -- attracting strangers who thank them and congratulate them for taking a stand for gun control and safer schools.
On a layover in Tampa, an older woman hugged one of them and said she was proud of their "grit."
Another woman approached a table of students and pulled up her hoodie to show she was wearing an #MSDStrong shirt she'd bought to support them. "Keep fighting," she said.
The students feel the eyes on them, but are also buoyed by the support.
"We never wanted to be here in the first place, and we all know we would give anything to go back to where we were," senior Taryn Hibshman said on the plane.
"But now we are famous for what we are doing -- that's something amazing. We're not famous for being obnoxious or for being rude. We're famous for making a change."
The students from Parkland are now meeting up outside the US Capitol, getting more support, this time from former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, herself a shooting survivor, and her husband, Mark Kelly, before they head to a meeting with lawmakers.
And Saturday they, along with anticipated crowds of supporters, will march.