In Santa Fe, green and yellow ribbons hug the trunks of most trees along the main thoroughfares. Ten decorated crosses in front of the high school serve as a memorial for locals and people from out of town to place stuffed animals, flowers and notes. Signs emblazoned with “Santa Fe Strong” are displayed at most businesses.
They are stark physical reminders of a May 18 school shooting at Santa Fe High School that killed 10 people and wounded more than a dozen others, shocking the community and leaving so many to grieve. More than a month after the shooting, the grief and destabilizing effect on the community is apparent.
Shortly into first period on the last Friday of the school year, a gunman opened fire in the high school. Authorities have charged Dimitrios Pagourtzis in connection with the shooting.
William “Bubba” Thomas, a shop supervisor at Indian Automotive, was starting the day at the mechanic shop across from the high school on state Highway 6 when the shooting began. He was working when two teachers ran in the door shouting about a shooter, he said. Soon after, students started scrambling into the garage, he said.
For the next hour and a half, parents who know Thomas were calling and texting to ask about their children’s safety.
He thinks of that morning every day, he said.
“I open the doors every morning and look over there,” Bubba Thomas said. “You can’t get away from it — not that you want to or should.”
Jared Black, Shana Fisher, Christian Riley Garcia, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Glenda Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Jake Stone, Cynthia Tisdale and Kimberly Vaughan were all killed in the shooting. There’s a memorial for the victims in front of the high school.
Gwen Hurt, a former Santa Fe resident, visited the memorial for the first time Friday to place crosses and bracelets she has made for the slain. She lives in Katy now, but still feels close to the community she lived in from 2005 to 2010, she said. She’s followed the tragedy intensely from news reports and social media, where she also met Rhonda Hart, the mother of one of the victims, Vaughan, Hurt said.
“She was a perfect stranger until this happened,” Hurt said. “She gets out and shares her grief to help ease it, though I think you never ease it.”
Hurt had waited to visit the memorials because she didn’t want to “interrupt a grieving community” and wanted to avoid the onslaught of press that descended into the community after the shooting.
“When it first happens, there’s so much attention and support,” Hurt said. “I just wanted to make sure the support continues to happen.”
In the community, the grief is present, said Lori Thomas, who works in the office at Indian Automotive. A parent of a high school student who was in the art classroom when the shooting erupted went to the shop this week, Lori Thomas said. The parent had been visited by the FBI recently, she said.
“It just breaks my heart,” Lori Thomas said. “She was in denial thinking she didn’t need counseling, but then she realized she might.”
Lori Thomas thinks of her 7-year-old son in all of it, she said. He asked her recently whether he could be home-schooled when he gets to high school, she said. The shooting brought new fear to something that should be so routine as attending school, she said. She told him he wouldn’t need to, she said.
“We pray, prayer over fear,” Lori Thomas said.