As clock faces across the country today read 10 a.m., students in classrooms from elementary to middle and high schools calmly closed their books, gathered their belongings and headed toward the door.
The National School Walkout demonstration, inspired by the Women's March Youth EMPOWER movement and orchestrated at the local level, was intended to remember the people who lost their lives in the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. For some, it was also meant to protest Congress' inaction on curbing gun violence.
Wayne County students participated.
At the agreed upon time, students at Eastern Wayne, Goldsboro, Southern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock, Rosewood and Spring Creek high schools -- in solidarity -- stood up from their desks, dropped their school work and walked out of school for 17 minutes -- each minute representative of a life lost in the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.
At just past 10 a.m. today, students at Eastern Wayne began to trickle on to the school's track, one by one, then coming in groups and finally in one mass.
Simultaneously, at Goldsboro High School, students began to exit the school buildings and congregate on the football field. They came first in ones and twos, then small groups, and before long a steady stream of students flooded out onto the bleachers.
They were joined by school faculty and staff, parents, central office administrators, and Goldsboro Mayor Chuck Allen, all of whom stood on the side of the field as the students continued to walk out.
Meanwhile, at Southern Wayne where there was no organized program, less than 200 students out of about 1,100 participated in the walk out.
The students gathered in small groups in an area next to the school's tennis court where they milled around taking selfies or just talking.
Outside Eastern Wayne High School, pockets of students stood talking to one another, some laughing. Others stood relatively silent.
Cheyenne Sutton and Teosha Faison, both 16, whispered to each other at the edge of the crowd.
Cheyenne spoke about the demonstration and the senseless violence that led to the 17 deaths in Florida.
"I am standing out here because 17 people lost their lives, and that hurt me," she said.
Teosha, standing shoulder to shoulder with Cheyenne, said that she believed students should be able to learn without fear of danger or struggle.
"We are here to remember the people that died in Florida," Blake Massengill, 15, said.
"It is tragic what happened to them."
Antonio Truzy, 16, and Devin Brown, 15, walked out of class today to show respect to the victims of the shooting.
"We are out here to support the kids who got shot," Antonio said.
"You got to show respect," Devin said. "It wasn't necessary to shoot innocent people."
And while many students were there to honor the lives that were lost -- some also using the demonstration to avoid class time -- there were others there with a strong a statement about gun control and exercising their right to free speech.
"It matters to me," Martha Alyea, 17, said.
"It is important to exercise your right to honor those 17 people and recognize the need for common sense laws for gun control, not to get political."
Shamari Wilson, 14, said the demonstration was an opportunity for people to come together to "support the cause."
That sense of community was also at the forefront of 14-year-old Janecia Greenfield's mind.
"I have seen the shooting in Florida," she said.
"I didn't want it to happen here. Students should be safe in school."
Janecia said she was taking the time during the demonstration to get to know more people and provide a sense of togetherness.
Jaleek Lewis, 16, who was not a demonstrator, stood on the outside of the fence of the track and watched the students go back to class when, at exactly 17 minutes, the protest concluded.
"I am completely against it because I don't think it is going to change any of it," Jaleek said.
"Instead of standing out here for 17 minutes, we should be kind to people."
Jaleek explained that in his view, a real change would come if people were kind to others who may appear alienated and through that kindness people can "bring them up."
The organization of the demonstration, at Eastern Wayne at least, gained traction on social media, with many students citing an Instagram post as a catalyst to protest.
At Goldsboro High School, students participating in the walkout made way for 17 of their peers who remained on the football field, each holding a red, heart-shaped balloon.
Each minute, they released one balloon, in remembrance of the 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas.
Looking out at the crowd of students on the bleachers ---- more than 100 strong ---- it seemed they couldn't help but be impressed.
"It's like the whole Goldsboro High School out here," one of them whispered to another beside her.
After the 17 minutes expired, the students calmly returned to their first-period classes.
Dormiya Vance and Kadijah Pearsall, both seniors, organized the walkout at GHS.
Kadijah said the two had learned about the walkout and decided to bring it to their school. They organized the 17 balloon-holders and spread the word as other schools prepared to do the same.
Charity Williams, one of the balloon holders, said that it was encouraging to know other students were sharing in the moment right then.
"It's sad that a tragedy has to happen for us to come together," she said. "But it's good to know that people are coming together and working to change things."
Back at Southern Wayne, student interviews were not allowed by school officials.
A day prior, Wayne County Public Schools spokesperson Ken Derksen said demonstrators would not be punished. He instead said the school system wanted to ensure students had a safe place to organize and that the demonstration was orderly.
Derksen also said the Wayne County school system did not endorse the demonstration because of its political nature.
-- Assistant editor Melinda Harrell,
and staff writers Joey Pitchford
and Steve Herring
contributed to this report.