SANTA FE, Texas (KXAN) — Saturday marks the one year anniversary of the shooting that killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School.
Friday students at Santa Fe High School held a tree dedication ceremony to honor the victims. The day was full of student-led activities like an open gym, service projects and game sessions.
In Austin, the Student Empowerment Association hosted a candlelight vigil Saturday night to honor the victims of the tragedy and others who have fallen victim to gun violence in the state of Texas in the past year.
Pearl Morosky, a sophomore at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, and Kylie Baber-Gonzalez, a junior at Austin High School, organized the event.
Saturday afternoon they met to go over the list of names they planned to read at the vigil and to finalize the short speeches they wanted to give.
While their friends studied over the last several days — finals are next week, after all — the two of them planned the gathering outside the governor’s mansion across the street from the capitol.
“We’re the generation of gun violence,” Baber-Gonzalez said. “It could happen anywhere.”
Morosky knows that better than most: “When you hear an elementary school in Newtown [Connecticut], there’s four of them, you know,” she said. “It could have so easily been us.”
When she was in 4th grade and her sister in 2nd, they went to an elementary school just up the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the school in which a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 young children, in December 2012.
“He just had to drive like five more minutes, and then it could have been us,” Morosky said. Her sister was friends with some of the children who died that day; two played on her soccer team.
The family moved to Texas, and after the shooting in Parkland High School last February, a group of students in Austin started the Student Empowerment Association to advocate for safer schools. Three months later, the Santa Fe shooting happened.
“It’s still something that we need to be vigilant about, you know, and really focus on,” Baber-Gonzalez said. “It won’t go away. We’re going to keep fighting for it.”
While they do push for stronger gun regulations, the organizers didn’t want Saturday’s vigil to be too political. They held it outside the governor’s mansion to send a message that they won’t forget what happened in Santa Fe and they want state leaders to keep working to make students safe.
Gov. Greg Abbott ordered flags at the capitol and in Santa Fe to be lowered to half-staff Saturday to remember the one year anniversary of the shooting.
He also issued a statement reminding all Texans to remember the victims of the shooting. “While prayers for those affected and remembrance of those lost will never cease,” he said, “the state of Texas has resolved to do all it can to ensure a tragedy like this never occurs again.”
After the shooting, Abbott convened a series of roundtable discussions around the state to determine how to make schools safer during the legislative session. He then released a list of 40 recommendations for lawmakers and school districts to consider, including more money for armed security, new laws that require faster reporting of stolen guns and mental health restraining orders to take firearms from someone after due process.
“I look forward to signing several bills into law that will give our students and parents the peace of mind they deserve at our schools,” Abbott said in statement.
State legislators have taken up a number of those proposals, but many have died in committees. There’s still a chance that they could be incorporated as amendments into other bills and still become law. The session ends Monday, May 27.
One measure that appears to have support is Senate Bill 11, a proposal that would help provide additional staff and training to help schools address mental health issues. That bill passed the full Senate at the end of April and is waiting for a vote in the House.
Across the street from the capitol Saturday, about a dozen people showed up to remember the lives lost a year ago. Organizers turned on nearly 90 LED candles to represent the number of young lives lost to gun violence in Texas since the Santa Fe shooting. One by one, as they read the names out loud, they turned off the candles.
At the end, one candle remained lit. It represented hope, they explained, that things will change.
“We feel that the best way to honor these victims,” Morosky said, “is to try to prevent like this type of thing from happening again.”