WASHINGTON — Students, artists and family of those lost in the Parkland, Florida, shooting last year gathered in the nation's capital to unveil a commemorative art exhibit honoring one of the victims.
- Manny Oliver created a wall of images for his late teen son Joaquin
- The art is a way to give Joaquin a voice in the gun debate, family says
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"I lost my son a year ago, but my son hasn't lost his dad," said Manny Oliver, one of the artists behind the exhibit called Walls of Demand.
Oliver's son Joaquin and 16 others were killed inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and now the father is turning his grief into art.
"Everything that we did with these walls was coming from here," Oliver said, motioning to his heart.
The panels, which are 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide, display various images of Joaquin. His family says the art is intended to give their late son a voice in the ongoing debate over gun violence in America.
"This is beyond schools, beyond Parkland, beyond Florida, this is a nationwide epidemic. This is how we see it. We are going to keep fighting it as a big picture with big pictures," Oliver said.
The exhibit also aims to keep the memory of the 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver alive.
"You are breathing and you are receiving from the picture the intensity of his personality," said Patricia Oliver, Joaquin's mother.
While February 14 will mark one year since the mass shooting by accused shooter Nikolas Jacob Cruz, the pain is still fresh for those who loved the high school senior.
"He's my whole heart and I know I'm just a kid and kids don't know everything obviously and I will tell you I know everything I need to know about love because Joaquin taught me everything," said Victoria Gonzales, Joaquin's girlfriend.
After a year without any significant gun legislation, House Democrats are introducing a flurry of gun-related bills that would impose universal background checks and ban high-capacity magazines.
"This is a movement and we have just begun to both ban certain kinds of guns, make sure we have background checks, convince the American people that you can protect the Second Amendment, but have reasonable, sensible gun control," said U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala of the 27th District D-Fla.
While many of the bills introduced in the House face an uncertain future, Joaquin Oliver's family remains optimistic.
"This is the first time, that I feel for real, that we are going to make a change," Patricia Oliver said.