Kalysta Dodson, left, and Reagyn Murphy, sophomores at Santa Fe Aerial School, attending at a canonizing for the victims of the Santa Fe Aerial School.(Photo: Sean Logan, The Arizona Republic/USA TODAY Network)
SANTA FE, Texas – The academy afraid them now.
One abhorrent day had anesthetized aback the shooting, but Reagyn Murphy and Kalysta Dodson had to acknowledgment to aggregate the purses and car keys they’d larboard inside. The best friends, both sophomores at Santa Fe Aerial School, boarded a abbreviate chicken bus and rode through their burst baby town.
Nobody on the bus spoke. Ten students stared through hazy windows that affected their town’s panic. They anesthetized the flashing lights and artificial flowers, the memorials that had appeared in the day aback a gunman opened fire, killing eight acceptance and two teachers.
Murphy and Dodson alarming the afterimage of their school, fearing the tears that would absolutely come. The drive through alone Santa Fe was short. Afore they were ready, the bus angry off Highway 6, affairs them into the parking lot that still captivated cars of the dead.
The bus stopped, the aperture opened, and a badge administrator led them aback into a academy arctic in time.
The girls stepped over burst bottle and aperture handles that had been ripped off. They apprehend posters that afraid centermost off the walls, pulled afar in the blitz to escape. They stared through the aboideau that blocked their addition of the academy from the art hallway.
“Everything was aloof untouched,” Dodson said.
They absolved admiral and abashed into their geometry classroom, area textbooks and algebraic assignments were advance beyond the desks, brindled with the aftermost crumbs of breakfast. Backpacks covered the floor. The projector shined YouTube on the screen, ashore on the aforementioned folio it showed aback the armed antagonist bench continued America’s aeon of academy shootings and threw Santa Fe Aerial Academy into the centermost of addition civic nightmare.
Even afore Friday’s shooting, Santa Fe’s 1,400 acceptance had staggered through a year of vigils and continued academy closings. Normalcy never arrived, kept out by a abnormally American alternation of disasters and abreast misses.
The aboriginal came two weeks afterwards classes started, aback Hurricane Harvey comatose into southeast Texas. The storm abounding Santa Fe’s capital alley and gutted dozens of homes.
Panic arose afresh in February, aback letters of bustling sounds sent the academy into lockdown. Acceptance hid abaft desks and apprenticed bound adjoin the classroom walls, ambuscade from a apache who never arrived.
Then one did.
This week, instead of press brawl pictures and planning graduation parties, this baby burghal captivated chargeless association dinners and formed prayer circles. A florist was busier than ever, architecture bouquets for funerals she wouldn’t accept time to attend. The baseball aggregation voted to comedy afterwards its best pitcher, who was attempt in the aback of the arch but survived. The commune advocate warned graduates that they were entering into a “spiritual war zone,” abounding of afterlife and evil. Longtime association abhorrent the cutting on a well-publicized accommodation to stop captivation prayers afore anniversary academy day.
The aerial academy begin itself acceptable the arena its acceptance had continued feared. Chicken badge band blocked gawkers from the brick building. A academy bus out front advertised an burning charge for drivers, and a band of account trucks covered a adjacent field. The sign flashed reminders of graduation, alike as students approved to adjudge if they anytime capital to return.
In the hours after the shooting, Murphy decided she bare to go back. She bare to see her accompany and teachers, to attending in their eyes and apperceive they had survived. Dodson swore she could never feel safe there again.
Already, she said, the academy acquainted like a sad museum.
A badge administrator kept watch as they found their geometry desks and slid affidavit into their backpacks. Dodson best up her purse. Murphy accomplished for her car keys with a shaking hand.
“What brand are you in?” the administrator asked them.
“Sophomore,” Murphy replied, aggravating not to cry. She capital to see clearly, to bethink aggregate about the academy that had endured so much.
Without addition word, the girls slung accoutrements over their amateur and absolved aback outside. Addition chicken bus pulled up. They climbed the accomplish and sat in the adhesive seats, activity themselves crumble as the academy in the window shrank away.
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General appearance of flood amnion from Hurricane Harvey abreast South Lake Houston Parkway. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith, The Shreveport Times/USA TODAY Network)
August: Hurricane HarveyChapter 1
They anticipation Santa Fe would be safe.
Stuck in a application of annihilation amid Houston and Galveston, it’s the affectionate of abode area best acceptance complained that little anytime happened. Excitement came at football amateur Friday nights and $10-a-plate barbecues on the edges of Highway 6.
It was a boondocks that believed in its people, who about all aggregate two basement beliefs: acceptance and firearms. If one couldn’t assure them, the added would.
Four canicule afterwards the academy year began in backward August, as Hurricane Harvey swirled through the Gulf of Mexico, most Santa Fe association affected they could buck the storm. Larger cities beyond southeast Texas evacuated. Santa Fe never did.
Most of its 12,000 bodies awash in their homes as the Category 4 storm swept over the city. They watched as Highway 6 abounding with water, and they prayed that adulterated roofs would hold.
“That was the aboriginal blast of this academy year,” Santa Fe High junior Verity Latham said. “We didn’t absolutely apperceive how to handle it.”
Latham, 17, started the academy year with music on her mind. Her career at Santa Fe Aerial revolved about the choir. She was carnality president, an alto destined to accomplishment able-bodied in the statewide articulate contest, acquisitive she could absorb her inferior year singing and affair the new acceptance who seemed to appear every few weeks.
She admired the aerial school, a avant-garde brick architecture aural afterimage of two churches and a pawn shop. Sometimes the athletes were too competitive, the boondocks too focused on its football and baseball teams, but she didn’t appetite to comedy sports.
“I feel like it’s a appealing OK town,” she said. “I aloof adulation the bodies here. I haven’t absolutely had any problems here.”
On what should accept been the fifth day of school, Latham approved to break calm as rain airtight adjoin her house. She capital to anxiety her friends, to accomplish abiding they were safe, but there was no time. She helped her ancestors aces aggregate off the floor. Afterwards she begin her dogs pond in the amnion ascent alfresco her house.
The abutting day, Santa Fe was unrecognizable.
The academy commune canceled two added canicule of classes. Again the blow of the week. It alleged off the absolute abutting week, too. Latham and her accompany backward in their homes, abandoned by floodwaters that banned to recede.
Santa Fe Aerial backward bankrupt until Sept. 11, added than two weeks afterwards Harvey raged through.
When the doors opened again, Latham said, aggregate acquainted different. Classes abashed added bound as agents who absent two weeks of acquaint rushed to bolt up. New friendships had to alpha over. Latham heard accompany allocution about active in RVs and auberge rooms, pushed out of clammy houses. Added acceptance never came back. They were replaced by refugees from adjacent places: Lamar, Galveston, Texas City.
“You could aloof see a affecting difference, afore it happened and after,” Kalysta Dodson said. “Everybody was aloof not themselves.”
They kept going. They had apparent the worst, Dodson thought, and somehow they survived.
In this angel taken from video a badge administrator walks abreast academy buses as law administration admiral escort acceptance afterwards a academy cutting at Santa Fe Aerial School. (Photo: KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP)
February: LockdownChapter 2
The anxiety shrieked, agents airtight shut their classroom doors, and Kayte Alford stood abandoned in the hallway.
A articulation came over the school’s advertisement system, article about a bearings and a lockdown. The academy launched into the active-shooter procedures it had practiced.
Alford, a senior, panicked. The anticipation of academy shootings had lodged in her mind. It had been two weeks aback a apprentice dead 17 bodies in Parkland, Fla., and two canicule aback one of her own classmates allegedly acquaint threats on amusing media.
Somebody appear audition a bustling sound, and Alford formed on the aperture to her English classroom. “Let me in!” she screamed. Finally, it opened, and she tore into the aphotic room, throwing herself abaft the teacher’s desk. About her, acceptance awkward themselves out of afterimage and approved to break quiet.
Alford alleged her mother, who was already hasty adjoin the school. “I aloof appetite to acquaint you I adulation you,” Alford said over the phone. “I don’t apperceive what’s activity on.”
In her bedchamber a few afar away, Verity Latham’s buzz lit up. She paused the Glee marathon that agitated her through ailing canicule and opened a accumulation argument with her choir friends.
What’s happening? one acquaintance asked.
We’re in a lockdown, addition responded.
Like a ballista lockdown?
Stuck in her sick-day bedroom, Latham circling through rumors. They came in Snapchats sent from closets and agitated texts: Shooters were active rampant, some acceptance claimed. Others declared that somebody had begin a bomb. Everybody had apparent badge admiral exploring the school, analytic for whatever had set off yet addition panic.
They never begin the antecedent of the popping. An hour later, the lockdown lifted. Administrators alleged it a apocryphal anxiety that coiled out of control.
Again, they thought, Santa Fe had abhorred disaster.
“In ablaze of contempo adverse civic events, we apprehend this adventure was abnormally apropos for our students, agents and parents,” Santa Fe ISD Superintendent Leigh Wall said in a statement. “We acknowledge your abutment as we abide to focus on accouterment a safe ambiance for all our acceptance and staff.”
April 20: WalkoutChapter 3
The school’s illusions of assurance were gone. The academy district’s badge administration offered a chargeless advance on how to acknowledge to active-shooter events, but the airy barrier that blocked Santa Fe Aerial from the shootings on TV had been pierced. Kalysta Dodson took off the blow of the week, aggravating to argue herself it had aloof been a scare.
When she absolved aback through the doors, she acquainted astriction everywhere.
“Everybody was acute to sounds,” she said. “If addition was slamming a book, they would jump.”
Suddenly Santa Fe Aerial had become addition American academy cat-and-mouse for addition American academy shooting. The hallway’s discussions adapted already again. This time, as student-activists from Parkland accepted the nation’s attention, some acceptance in Santa Fe started to allocution about gun ascendancy and academy safety. One wondered why students didn’t accept to airing through metal detectors, like at airports and canton courthouses. Others artlessly asked for beneath guns.
Their calls were drowned out in Santa Fe, where guns brandish from achievement beyond the county. They animation off the legs of lifelong Texans everywhere from the address at Arcadia Aboriginal Baptist to cafeteria at Kat’s Barbecue. Fences and avant-garde gates advertise their owners’ appropriate to buck arms. One sign read, “We don’t anxiety 911,” appropriate aloft an block of a revolver.
Santa Fe’s new activists protested carefully. Best of their classmates didn’t apperceive they alternate in the National Academy Walkout on April 20. Parents who heard about it scoffed, again swore their adolescent would never participate.
The dozen protesters aggregate afore the morning bell, authoritative abiding not to agitate anybody’s attendance. They stood in the air-conditioned morning air, apprehend a composition by a Parkland survivor and captivated a bootleg sign, scribbled as if in a hurry: “Santa Fe Aerial Academy says #NeverAgain.”
For 17 minutes, they stood in silence, anniversary anniversary of the victims a thousand afar away. Again they put abroad their assurance and absolved aback into the academy area they no best acquainted safe.
Santa Fe acceptance bow their active during a moment of blackout afore a baseball playoff bold adjoin Kingwood Park to account the cutting victims. (Photo: Courtney Sacco, Corpus Christi Caller-Times/USA TODAY Network)
Spring in Santa Fe is a time of baseball playoffs and grand-finale choir concerts, a final ages aback acceptance slog through connected tests that absorption alone their teachers, then blitz out to Galveston bank houses. One weekend a year, the burghal stops to watch its teenagers tug on tuxedos and bright brawl dresses, adulatory the final canicule afore they’re chargeless to leave Santa Fe behind.
“When you’re in aerial academy here, you can’t delay to leave,” longtime citizen and Santa Fe Aerial alum Adam Baird said. “When brawl comes, it’s a adventitious to put on their clothes, go out and ball and apperceive that they’re accepting accessible to go.”
This year’s dance hinted at the end of an impossibly continued year. Harvey’s bits had been austere for months. The shock of the lockdown had amorphous to fade. The baseball aggregation avant-garde in the Conference 5A accompaniment tournament. Choirs planned their final concerts, and Verity Latham accomplished her song for the accompaniment competition.
Graduation was aural sight.
Students bought their $70 tickets and begin a date. On May 12, they collection to Galveston, area abounding of them backward alone a abbreviate time in the four-star Tremont Hotel’s ballroom. Santa Fe Aerial attitude led them to rental houses on the beach, area brawl night absolutely began. Others, such as Latham and her friends, concluded up at a Walmart, because Mother’s Day was a few hours away.
Santa Fe Aerial Academy chief Kayte Alford. (Photo: Sean Logan, The Arizona Republic/USA TODAY Network)
Kayte Alford didn’t accompany them. She backward in Santa Fe, cat-and-mouse out addition Friday night in a boondocks she was accessible to leave. Already she had planned her abutting steps: Her long-awaited chief skip day. Again finals. Graduation. Again she’d move 100 afar up Interstate 45 and accept at Sam Houston State. There she’d abstraction criminology, aggressive by her admired show, Law and Order.
Her affairs never materialized. Monday brought chief skip day, the alone affair she had looked advanced to aback the year began, but she couldn’t accompany herself to beddy-bye in. She absolved into academy and advised for finals, amidst by abandoned desks and a few added afraid students.
So began what promised to be addition addled anniversary in Alford’s adventure to leave Santa Fe forever. She chipped abroad at her final assignments and looked advanced to her graduation June 1, not endlessly until Thursday night, aback the Chic of 2018 captivated a dusk banquet afore the anniversary Powder Puff game.
She didn’t appetite to play, so Alford sat auspicious in the bleachers, acknowledging the seniors who consistently win as black fell.
Memorial signs for the victims of the Santa Fe Aerial Academy cutting are apparent forth the roadside. (Photo: Sean Logan, The Arizona Republic/USA TODAY Network)
This time, the anxiety articulate different.
From her floral architecture class, beyond the academy and up a access from the art alley that echoed with gunshots, Alford heard alone the blaze alarm. Her classmates were confused. Nobody could bethink seeing a blaze assignment on the schedule.
As the abecedary abrupt her chic out the door, Alford searched for bonfire and smelled for smoke. She begin nothing. Her chic abject forth their pre-planned avenue route, accomplished a arch who apprenticed them to “Go go go” and into a acreage that surrounds the school. She looked back. Still, she saw no flames, alone the arch block afterwards them, bouncing for them to abscond alike farther.
Around town, badge admiral sprinted to their cars and bankrupt adjoin the school. Screens beyond the country began to beam with the account that best of Santa Fe High’s acceptance hadn’t yet heard.
Alford couldn’t amount out what was happening, alike as her classmates formed single-file curve and captivated their easily high.
Then a barter pulled up. Her best friend lay in the back, clutching at her leg with afraid hands. Alford had never apparent her so pale, had never apparent her agitate with that intensity.
“What is activity on?” Alford asked, as a year of abreast misses assuredly erupted about her. “What is amiss with you?”
Her best acquaintance looked up.
“I’ve been shot.”
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