Students grabbed markers at Abraham Lincoln High School on Wednesday afternoon and lined up to answer a weighty question printed in orange letters: What are you thinking?
“They were only 10 years old,” one student wrote.
“It’ll keep happening until we do something,” another stated.
“Are we next?” a third asked.
The students were responding to the heartbreaking school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two adults on May 24.
The memorial event, organized by Lincoln High teachers and students, took place in the school’s courtyard and centered around 21 empty chairs—each one honoring a life lost in Tuesday’s mass shooting.
Students were prompted to speak, write or create art to express their emotions and hopes for a safer future.
Tyreque Elleston, a senior, said news of the massacre immediately got him thinking about his younger brothers and how he would feel if he lost them.
“I was definitely heartbroken and sad. It was emotional,” said Elleston, who added that “it’s just a blessing for me to live to age 18.”
Jose Hernandez said he came to school today disappointed in his country. “The fact that this happened again after happening so many other times … the students had their whole lives ahead of them,” he said.
Along with remembering the lives cut short in Texas, the memorial also honored those lost to another mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this month.
The gathering gave students space to talk about the impact of firearms in their own communities. A white sheet of paper quickly filled up with the names of friends and family members lost to gun violence.
And students brainstormed the changes they’d like to see: gun control topped the list.
“If you’re someone in power—someone who could stop this, someone who can make this happen less—then why isn’t the action being taken?” Hernandez wondered. “Changes need to be made and people need to be saved.”
Sophie Bearman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org