Three years ago on Sept. 20, 2017 a freshman of Mattoon High School opened fire in the school’s cafeteria, leaving one injured and many others traumatized, and on Sept. 20 of this month those affected discuss it in memorial.
Bianca Beltran, freshman music major at Eastern, was a sophomore at Mattoon High School at the time of the event.
She describes efforts the high school and community took after the event to help students ranging from music playing during passing periods, in town store discounts to students, and dedicating Sept. 20 as a service day.
“A counseling service specialized for this would be really good,” Beltran said. “Right now I don’t feel like I can open up to anyone about it because it’s such a unique circumstance and not a lot of people will understand what it’s like to feel like your life is in danger until it is.”
She also spoke out on the hashtag that was started up, #GreenWaveStrong, deriving from the school’s original motto, “Hail Greenwave.”
Many students didn’t particularly like this response as it was a constant reminder of the shooting.
“Everyone says that but we should always remember and never forget. That’s true and it’s important to never forget what happened and to learn from it, but we do not need it looking over us every single day of our lives as we try to move on from it,” Beltran said.
Jolie Osborn, a sophomore graphic design major, was not at school during the event but lived nearby.
While she was going home early that day, she heard the event over police scanners and said she witnessed people from the high school running out into a neighborhood away from the school.
She also said that social media played a role in helping make sure her friends were safe as some posted Snapchat stories about the situation in the immediate aftermath.
Online efforts to handle this situation include the Facebook group “Justice for MHS.”
Earlier this year in August after the community found out that the perpetrator was to be released on good behavior, Jen Landreth started a Facebook group to create a safe space for those who wanted to share their thoughts and discuss possible events.
They attempted to organize some marches but were unsuccessful due to COVID-19 and related expenses.
One recent event was held on the anniversary of the shooting: an online Messenger Rooms meeting to discuss as a community “what further action can be taken in the situation at hand.”
According to the responses on the group event, 28 people attended.
The rise of school shootings over the years has left many students and faculty members across the country with traumatic memories.
Even those that have not gone to schools with shooting incidents have concerns that it may happen to them as well, pushing schools to add more preventive measures.
“This event has made everyone’s lives change and has made us into different people then who we thought we would probably be before this all happened,” Beltran said. “But regardless of what we went through, this isn’t something that we should be defined by. We were survivors, not victims.”
Theo Edwards can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]