Photos by Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via AP
Story by Shelby Webb/Houston Chronicle via AP
Months ago, Rachel Lyons assumed her 10-year high school reunion would be a low-key affair. Perhaps she and other members of Santa Fe High School’s class of 2008 would go to Top Golf in Webster, she thought, or rent out a restaurant near the small Galveston County community. The Houston Chronicle reports that all of that changed on May 18, when she and other alumni learned a gunman had killed 10 people and wounded 13 at their alma mater. A 17-year-old student was arrested and charged with capital murder.
“We didn’t want to have fun while the town was in so much pain,” Lyons said. “We figured, why don’t we try to do something to bring something positive back to town? Let’s bring on the school pride.”
Lyons and dozens of other Santa Fe alumni from as far back as the class of 1988 spent the past couple of months planning The Alumni Santa Fe Strong Benefit Concert, which on July 15 brought hundreds to the nearby Galveston County Fairgrounds.
The fundraiser felt more like a community barbecue than a solemn remembrance, something Lyons strove for as she helped organize the event. She went so far as to cash in all of her vacation and sick days so she could make the three-hour round trip to Galveston County multiple times each week to help get everything together.
Children shrieked as they bounced down inflatable slides and slurped snow cones in the steamy summer heat. Adults perused donated items up for auction and raffles, which included horse bridles, fire pits, a wagon filled with bottles of whiskey and an all-inclusive trip for two to Africa. Some stood underneath a large, metal awning and held cold cans of Miller Lite to their faces and necks as pockets of thunderstorms rolled across the fairgrounds.
Nearby, Wesley Willoughby and several other members of the Galveston County Mounted Posse civic group watched the party perched atop horses. Willoughby graduated from Santa Fe High in 2010 and knew four people who were injured in the shooting.
A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.