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As the community of Santa Fe, Texas, recoiled from a school shooting that left 10 people — eight students and two teachers — dead on Friday, May 18, students at Ridgefield High School shared feelings of grief and helplessness online.

For one RHS junior, the latest shooting seemed to show the normalization of such tragedies amongst her peers.

“There’s...an element of a lack of surprise, which is completely devastating in its own way. When we hear about these horrific events — we aren’t surprised,” said Dackerie Bowes, 17. Bowes was one of the student organizers involved in the March 14 school walkout to memorialize the victims of the Parkland, Texas shooting in February.

She was in class when she heard the news about the Santa Fe shooting Friday.

“It was the day before our prom, so everyone was so caught up — and then I heard that there was a school shooting, and it just absolutely broke my heart because here I was in Connecticut getting ready for prom with my friends, and it was like, ‘how many kids in Texas, how many friends of those kids, were getting ready for prom, were getting ready for graduation, were getting ready for their first year of college, were getting ready to go home for their families for the day?’ And to have that interrupted?”

“I mean it just takes your breath away. It’s like when you jump into cold water — you have no idea what to say, you have no idea what to do,” she added.

Human rights, not politics

Asked whether she thought the latest shooting would push her to be more active in politics, Bowes said she didn’t see the issue as political, but rather as a question of human rights.

“Many of the events — at least that I’ve attended — have said ‘this is not a political party’, this is a group of teens saying ‘enough is enough,’” Bowes said.

Despite that, she also believes the solution may lie in more student-organized events.

“The more schools around the country that are educating their students and whose students are standing up against these kind of events, the more of an impact we will see,” Bowes said.

Acting Superintendent Robert Miller said Monday, May 21 that he had not heard of any plans by students to hold a memorial or protest, in response to Friday’s mass shooting. He said he “would not be surprised” if the students did plan such an event.

“Every time there is a tragedy, our hearts go out,” Miller said.

He added that the district’s thoughts were with the Santa Fe community, and that the educational community is “tight knit, regardless of location.”

Interview

Bowes interview with the Press is transcribed below. The interview has been condensed and shortened in some places for clarity.

The Ridgefield Press: What was your gut reaction to the news of the shooting?

Dackerie Bowes: The news of the shooting in Texas was absolutely heartbreaking and devastating because we’re so invested in this movement right now, and we’re working with so many different people. To hear that something else happened after all of what we’ve been doing was really heartbreaking. It shows that there’s still a lot more work that has to be done.

But there’s also an element of a lack of surprise, which is completely devastating in its own way. When we hear about these horrific events — we aren’t surprised. We need to turn that into more movement forward.

Press: What do you think comes next for Ridgefield kids?

Bowes: For Ridgefield kids? I think that it’s really spreading the word and trying to promote events like the walkout we had to other schools. I think that the more schools around the country that we have doing these kind of events, the more of an impact that it will have. I know that at this point if something happened around here, it would be very very personal, and it would have a lot of emotion, a lot of reaction, a lot of action come from that — because here in Ridgefield we’re working and we’re doing so much against gun violence. So I think that the more schools you have, the more chance that there is that this is going to become more personal. And people are going to be more educated.

Press: For you personally, do you think that it’s going to make you more political?

Bowes: I don’t think that this is a politics issue, I think that this is a human rights issue. I think that this is an issue of human life. I know that there are a lot of people who refused to take place in events because of their political views, but I think that many of the events — at least that I’ve attended — have said ‘this is not a political party’, this is a group of teens saying ‘enough is enough.’ So I don’t think that this is going to make me more political. I hope that people don’t disengage themselves because of politics

Press: Are there any events that you know of that students are planning in response to this event?

Bowes: We don’t have any set dates at this point. Absolutely, it shouldn’t be surprising, so much is going to come out of this. It’s unfortunate that it has to come out of this, but like I said before, the more schools around the country that are educating their students and whose students are standing up against these kind of events, the more of an impact we will see.

Press: Do you remember that sucker punch moment when you heard the news about Friday’s shooting? Or was it not a sucker-punch moment to you?

Bowes: I do remember, because I was in school and it was like ‘oh…’

It was Friday, so it was the day before our prom, so everyone was so caught up — and then I heard that there was a school shooting, and it just absolutely broke my heart because here I was in Connecticut getting ready for prom with my friends, and it was like ‘how many kids in Texas, how many friends of those kids, were getting ready for prom, were getting ready for graduation, were getting ready for their first year of college, were getting ready to go home for their families for the day?’ And to have that interrupted?

I mean it just takes your breath away. It’s like when you jump into cold water — you have no idea what to say, you have no idea what to do. It just takes your breath away and it stings. It really hurts.