The tragic events of August 3 served as inspiration for a book of poems that captures the emotions and thoughts of Jefferson students and their impressions of how it changed the city forever.
English teacher Jim Riddle compiled the collection of poems in a book titled “915 #ElPasoStrong! A Silverfox Response to the Walmart Shooting” in hopes that they one day would appear on the shelves of Walmart and the very store where the 22 lives were lost among other locations.
“I asked them at the beginning of the year ‘do you think you would like to write something and I’ll put it in a book for you,’” Riddle said. “We can get it to the world and you can do something absolutely extraordinary during your high school career. You can show your grandchildren that you’re a published author.”
Riddle also worked with ESOL teacher Jose Ramos to include the poetic works of his English-learning class in their native language. Riddle is currently working on getting the book published and available for wide distribution so that more can read this generation’s viewpoint.
“Their voice makes a difference,” Riddle said. “Some of the things they write about will blow your mind. They have profound things to say throughout the book.”
He points to a few class exercises that helped get the creativity and words flowing onto the pages – sometimes examining thoughts of “when will El Paso change to be the same again” to “do we have to make racism wrong again?”
The book is filled with a gamut of emotions – from anger to sadness to fear. But much of the sentiment focused on the El Paso Strong feeling that blanketed the city after the tragedy.
“We all represent El Paso,” said junior Mia Ortega. “We have a voice of how we represent our city and ourselves. Our poems show we love our city. We love each other and we respect each other.”
Her poem “Stranger” captured the sentiment of the city and the evil never known before that day.
A stranger came to this place
A place where we embrace all race
That stranger had a gun
And many people had to run”
Blood on the ground
Many people all around
The loss of families and friends
We can never make amends
The president brought up the wall
And treated us like useless dolls
To activate the whites who have hate
And so a stranger knew where to locate
Walmart was a big place that had equality
Now it’s covered and protected by authority
Parents and children went for supplies
But some came back with painful cries
When Walmart open’s back up
We have to keep our heads up
Even though when we close our eyes
We can still hear the cries
We can still visualize
Where the bodies lie
Where our hopes nearly died
Including our El Paso pride
But one thing that can never be taken
Or even bring back that Satan
Our beliefs in our Community
Have brought opportunity
To believe that we are strong
For the president to be wrong
To know where we belong
That we are all El Paso Strong
Junior Andres Pippin also shared his thoughts of what it means to be El Paso Strong in his “915 Stands” poem but went a step further by changing his football number to 22 to honor the lives lost on that tragic day.
“El Paso is one of the most loving and caring cities,” he said. “There’s less crime and not too much to be afraid of here and for us to go through this. I want to represent the people who lost friends and families and have a daily reminder of this.”
He felt it important to contribute to the collection and be a voice for his generation.
“We know how adults have reacted to it but it’s important that we know if kids are still feeling afraid, feeling vulnerable or maybe kids don’t like going to the store anymore because this happened. But for us to speak out loud is for us to represent that we live for the 915. We live for El Paso.”