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Austinites gather to mourn lives lost in recent Texas school shooting

Sophie Ryland

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Friday morning, 10 were killednine students and one teacher—and 10 wounded in a school shooting perpetrated by a current student at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, located 30 miles southeast of Houston. He has been apprehended and charged with capital murder, denied bail. Authorities said he carried out the attack with a shotgun and revolver and that explosives were found close by.

Organizers from Austin’s March for Our Lives event in March planned a vigil to mourn the lives lost in the shooting, which began at 8 p.m. on Friday night. About two dozen mourners walked from St. Austin Church to the Capitol. The event was “a space for Austin to collectively mourn the victims,” according to the event Facebook page.

I organiz[ed] it because the first step in becoming an effective activist is to be in a good place with your heart and mind,” UT student and organizer Selina Eshraghi told The Shield. “The emotions that you feel after something like this are really complicated and difficult, and I wanted to make sure that we took a moment to grieve and heal together. It was also a way for us to show that we stand with Santa Fe.”

Photo by Joseph Cardenas.

Additionally, the students who helped organize the ATX Capitol student walkout plan to protest at the Governor’s Mansion again on Sunday, May 20, the one-month anniversary of the April 20 walkout. From 5 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, they will hold a memorial as well as a “die-in” and 22 minutes of silence for the 22 school shootings resulting in injury or death that have occured in 2018. Signs are encouraged, and students will wear Santa Fe High School’s official color, green. 

“We need to show [the lawmakers] that we are not giving up in the long haul,” Dennis Binford, a student organizer of Sunday’s protest, said. “[A] new group of wonderful and amazing stars and role models in our country will be the culmination of the students’ work in doing the right thing.”

Eshraghi lost a friend to gun violence in October. She said that it was difficult for her and her friends to process such a tragedy as the Santa Fe shooting, especially because it occured in the same state.

Diana Earl, a member of Moms Demand Action, lost a son in an Austin shooting in 2016. “The time is very critical, and we need to act, and we need to act now,” she said. “We have six months left for the elections, and I think we need to demand our elected officials to pass common-sense gun legislation, and they need to do it now.” Photo by Joseph Cardenas.

“I put stuff about the shooting on my [Snapchat] story and was heartbroken when people I knew swiped up to tell me they knew victims or people who were injured,” Eshraghi said. “It hurts to much to have this happen so close to home.”

Member of Moms Demand Action Diana Earl, who was in attendance at the vigil, lost her son in an Austin shooting in 2016. 

“[I am here] because I want to represent here in Austin the lives that were lost in Sante Fe High School, and for the victims who were injured as well and for my son,” Earl said. “Each time something like that happens, I want to come. I want to represent and show my respect and that I’m grieving with them.”

Earl urges people—especially voters—to turn their grief into direct action.

“The time is very critical, and we need to act, and we need to act now,” she said. “We have six months left for the elections, and I think we need to demand our elected officials to pass common-sense gun legislation, and they need to do it now.”

Eshraghi agreed, saying that after they mourned, they would begin to act.

“We need to start treating guns as the dangerous weapons they are,” she said. “The biggest thing moving forward is motivating people to vote. It’s so important not to get complacent and to use our emotions to push for changes.”

Earl, speaking from first-hand experience, summarized the core of the issue in two simple sentences.

“We cannot afford to keep losing children,” she said. “We’re sending our children to school; they’re not coming home.”

Additional reporting contributed by Kelsey Tasch and Joseph Cardenas.

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Austinites gather to mourn lives lost in recent Texas school shooting