On the eve of a grim anniversary, hundreds of Santa Fe residents did what they’ve done so many times over the past year — find solace in togetherness.
On Friday afternoon, a group of about 200 people gathered outside Santa Fe High School to commemorate a shooting that left 10 people dead and another 13 injured on May 18, 2018.
The 30-minute event focused largely on a word that has taken root in the city since the fateful day — resiliency.
“A strong sense of community has always been a hallmark of Santa Fe, and is now, more than ever,” said J.R. “Rusty” Norman, the president of the Santa Fe Independent School Board of Trustees.
Because the official anniversary of the event falls on a Saturday, the school district held its remembrance events Friday. Attending classes was optional, and students were allowed to leave early or to attend a talk by a motivational speaker.
The district also hosted community service projects and counseling sessions for students who attended school on Friday.
As part of the afternoon ceremony, the school dedicated a live oak sapling in honor of the victims of the shooting.
The school district plans to eventually plant 23 trees and install walking trails in the space on the west side of the campus, officials said.
“These trees not only represent our fallen, but all of us who are here today,” said Jayviance Gillard, a high school junior who was inside the art room where the shooting happened, and is now a member of the school’s student council. “We’re like these trees, big and small. We can withstand the storm and become stronger each and every day.”
During the ceremony, a dozen high school students ceremonially placed the last shovelful of dirt around the sapling. Afterward, family members took their own moments at the spot.
One man appeared to pour some ashes on the tree.
During the event, organizers acknowledged that some victims and families were seeking privacy during the remembrance events. A speaker read the name of some of the killed and injured, and of students who were in the art classroom where the shooting took place.
Some names were omitted. Some of the families, preferred to be unnamed, officials said.
Flo Rice, a substitute teacher who was shot on May 18 and survived, and Scot Rice, her husband, collected some of the yellow roses that were passed out during the ceremony, intending to deliver them to some of the victims that did not attend the ceremony.
The Rices, who have becoming prominent victim advocates in the year since the shooting, said they did not plan to attend other remembrance events in coming days.
“You’d think that would be just another day, like the day before,” Scot Rice said. “But then, when all the attention comes in, and you start feeling the pressure, then stuff like this, the emotion starts coming back.”