Seven thousand pairs of empty shoes lined the lawn of the United States Capitol Tuesday morning to memorialize every child killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.
The moving display was meant to be a call for Congress to take action on gun reform, the advocacy group Avaaz said in a statement.
“[The shoes offer] a very powerful metaphor both for how we miss the victims who once filled those shoes, and also for how we see ourselves wanting to walk in their place, seeking change, so that others don’t have to walk this painful journey,” said Tom Mauser, one of the event’s volunteers.
Mauser lost his son Daniel in the Columbine school massacre 19 years ago. He has been wearing the same shoes Daniel was killed in ever since.
“I’ll be travelling to D.C. literally wearing my son’s shoes, the ones he wore the day he died at Columbine,” Mauser said.
Mauser was one of many individuals and families who contributed a pair of shoes to the presentation, which covered 10,000 square feet of the lawn.
Andy and Barbara Parker, whose news reporter daughter Allison was fatally shot on live television three years ago in Virginia, were also at the event. Other families chose to instead send in the shoes to honor the children they had lost.
Celebrities like Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Alyssa Milano and Chelsea Handler also supported the statement by donating shoes of their own.
“The culture on guns is shifting and we can all feel it,” Avaaz deputy director Emma Ruby-Sachs said. “Students are walking out of their schools, survivors are marching in the streets, and parents are here on the Capitol to honor the children we’ve lost and make a clear demand: Not one more gun death.”
On average, 13,000 people are killed by gun every year, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of the approximately 96 Americans killed by gun violence daily, about seven are children and teens, the study showed.