Mattoon alumni reflect on shooting

Brooke Schwartz, Staff Reporter

A phone call, a text and some rumors of shots fired at Mattoon High School interrupted Eastern students and community members’ days last Wednesday.

Student Body President Luke Young and freshman biological sciences major Carson Gordon, both alumni of Mattoon High School, could not believe it when they heard about the shooting, where one student was shot by another in the cafeteria last week. The student was transported to a local hospital and was later reported to be in stable condition.

Young was in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union Food Court when he heard what had happened on the radio.

His first thought was for the safety of his sister, who is a senior at Mattoon High School this year.

“I was really scared, because I knew my sister was at lunch at that time,” Young said. “So I was texting her, calling her, and she eventually said that she was fine, and she was actually at home; she’d gone off campus for lunch that day. So very, very blessed there.”

Gordon was on her way to her job at the Admissions Office when she got a call from her mother.

“I knew that she knew that I was working, so I figured it was important. All we really knew at the time was that there had been a shooting, and we didn’t know if anyone died or how many people were affected by it, “ Gordon said. “So it was just kind of like this is what’s happening, and we just had to wait for more information.”

Gordon said that night at work was rough because she was not able to check her phone, and there still was not a lot of concrete information released.

It was hard being out of the loop and trying to sort through the rumors to find any grain of truth that might reassure her or her family just a little bit, she said.

For Gordon, this was different than just hearing about a shooting, because she could picture exactly where it happened.

“It was where I took my graduation photos, it was where I got asked to Homecoming, stuff like that,” Gordan said. “It just really changes how you experience it. It makes it so much more real and so much more powerful.”

Both Gordon and Young praised Mattoon and surrounding communities for their overwhelming support and concern.

“I think when something like that happens, when you have a community that comes together, rallies together and isn’t full of hate and spite, but rather just comes together, I think that’s the best outcome you could hope for when you have a situation like this,” Young said.

Gordon said a lot of other local high schools have been wearing either a green shirt or a green ribbon to show their support for Mattoon and everyone affected by the shooting.

As the shock value starts to wear off, Young hopes that some sense of normalcy can return to his hometown so people can start to heal.

One way the students are trying to heal is through the “Believe It Or Not, I Care,” mentoring program, Gordan said. The program gives each senior a freshman buddy with whom they eat lunch with once a week.

Gordon said BIONIC members were waiting at the doors of Mattoon High School on Monday to escort students inside the building to try and calm the nerves of the student body.

Both Gordon and Young said that to continue to heal and learn from this event, it must be remembered.

“I think it’s important that we don’t just forget about what happened, because it’s easy to just push it aside and pretend like this horrible thing didn’t occur,” Gordon said. “But the truth is that it did, and we can choose to let it overpower us, or we can make something great out of our school.”

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]