She strode on stage at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington over the weekend, and listed the names of the 17 students and staff gunned down at her high school in Parkland, Florida. And then she went silent.
Minutes ticked by. One. Two. Three. Four.
It was a visceral moment – one that an analyst called “the loudest silence in the history of US social protest.” It was the 18-year-old’s way of showing the world how it felt to crouch in a school room for 6 minutes and 20 seconds while a murderer carried out his shooting spree.
Here’s what you need to know about high school senior Emma Gonzalez:
She’s “18, Cuban and bisexual:” That’s how Gonzalez began a powerful essay she wrote for Harper’s Bazaar. She went on to say:
“I’m so indecisive that I can’t pick a favorite color, and I’m allergic to 12 things. I draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider—anything productive I can do with my hands while watching Netflix.
“But none of this matters anymore.”
She hid in the auditorium while Nikolas Cruz was firing on her classmates: Gonzalez says that as she waited in the dark room at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14, she searched Google News for updates. When it was clear what was unfolding, she comforted some of the students around her before first responders opened the doors and told them to run.
Her father fled Cuba and is a lawyer: Gonzalez was born in the US. Her dad sought refuge from Fidel Castro’s regime by moving to New York in 1968.
Her mother is a math tutor and worries about her: In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” mom, Beth, reminded viewers that Gonzalez is still young despite the strength she’s displaying: “It’s like she built herself a pair of wings out of balsa wood and duct tape and jumped off a building, and we’re just like running along beneath her with a net, which she doesn’t want or think that she needs.”
She says being open about her sexuality has helped propel her activism: Gonzalez has been president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance for three years. “If I wasn’t so open about who I was I never would’ve been able to do this,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.
She had to make a Powerpoint to convince her parents to let her shave her head: Shaving her head wasn’t political; it was practical. “I decided to cut my hair because it was a pain in the neck, if you’ll forgive the pun,” she told her school’s Humans of New York-style Instagram account. “It was really hot all the time; it was very cumbersome and very heavy, leading to a lot of headaches.”
She became a household name when she called out lawmakers’ “BS”: Just four days after the shooting, the 5’2 Gonzalez stood on boxes to reach the microphones and delivered a fiery speech at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida:
“I had no idea that my speech was going to be broadcast nationally,” she said speaking into her cell phone’s camera. “My mom killed her battery trying to film it ‘cause she didn’t think it was going to be anywhere,” she added.”My name is a household name now.”
And then she tussled with the NRA: At a CNN Town Hall about the future of gun control, she pointedly told NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who wouldn’t directly answer her question: “I want you to know we will support your two children in a way that you will not.”
She has more Twitter followers than the NRA: She created the @Emma4Change account four days after the shooting to amplify calls for stricter gun control. She has built a legion of more than 1 million followers. The NRA, which joined Twitter in 2009, has 636,000 followers of its main account.
She’s been on the cover of Time: The April 2 issue of the magazine features Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who are leading the national conversation about gun control. Along with Gonzalez, it also features David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin with the word “ENOUGH,” written in bold letters and imposed across the image.
A politician who called her a ‘skinhead lesbian’ dropped out of his race:
This is what Leslie Gibson tweeted: “There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you’re a frothing at the mouth moonbat.”
Gibson was running for Maine’s House of Representatives and quit the race after Republicans and Democrats called on him to end his campaign. (He said he made the decision after conversations with family and friends.)
She’s still planning on college after graduation: Just four days before the shooting, Gonzalez went on a tour of New College of Florida in Sarasota. That’s still her plan, People magazine reported.
CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.