• September 20, 2020
 #ElPasoStrong inspires book of poems and prose by Jefferson High students

#ElPasoStrong inspires book of poems and prose by Jefferson High students

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.”

Story and photo by Reneé de Santos &  Leonel Monroy – EPISD

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