• September 22, 2019

Holy Cross commemorates mass shooting, 9/11 attacks - Odessa American: Education

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Holy Cross commemorates mass shooting, 9/11 attacks

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 5:33 pm

Theology teacher Perla Garcia noted that the students assembled weren’t even born when the attacks occurred. “I was in seventh grade math,” Garcia said.

If you ask anyone over 20, they knew exactly where they were when the attacks occurred. Garcia said her math teacher, who was usually calm, seemed nervous that morning and was walking around the classroom. She bought other teachers in and then they turned on the TV. 

There were huge towers with smoke coming out of them and it was very confusing to Garcia and her peers.

Terrorists had hijacked four commercial jets, taking them to different areas of the country. The first of the Twin Towers was hit at 8:46 a.m. and the next at 9:03 a.m. At 9:37 a.m., the Pentagon was hit and then passengers steered the last plane into a field in Shanksville, Pa., Garcia said.

She said it seemed like a movie, but it was real.

Garcia added that natural disasters, like Hurricane Dorian, are sad, but they are not caused by man. The Sept. 11 attacks were caused by man. She noted that nearly 3,000 people died that day.

Head of School Carolyn Gonzalez said Fr. Timothy Hayter of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was going to lead chapel Wednesday, but he got called to an out-of-town funeral so Garcia took over.

Pins blessed by Hayter were distributed to those attending chapel.

“For this morning, I just kind of remembered what I had lived through in seventh grade because I knew they would be more engaged in a personal story, rather than just giving out facts so I just … reflected over what I went through. My New York friends/New Jersey friends, I knew they would remember all the events. I went to them and kind of sought out the facts I may have forgotten and they provided them for them. Then I just prayed a little bit and that was it,” Garcia said.

A short email was sent to parents letting them know about the service. Parish staff also was made aware in case they wanted to join in, but they wanted to walk the students through the events.

The Aug. 31 mass shooting also was included in the service and a Texas flag was planted along the walking trail to mark the incident. The incident killed seven people and injured 25. The shooter, Seth Ator, was killed by police.

Garcia said she thinks the students absorbed the shooting much like she did Sept. 11 — with shock and disbelief that it really happened.

“Then once we had the funeral here at St. Elizabeth’s of that 15 year old girl, Leilah (Hernandez), they were willing to serve. We spent a whole hour opening doors passing out the mass aids so they wanted to be active in a little way to help,” Garcia said. “Sadly, it kind of makes 9/11 more real after what we experienced …”

Fourteen-year-old freshman Braeden Levario planted the Texas flag.

“It was different than what I’m used to. I haven’t done anything like this before, so it was OK,” Levario said.

He said he has thought about the shooting since it happened because one of the victims, U.S. Army veteran Kameron Brown, was shot close to where Levario lives.

“While the shooting was happening, I was actually relatively close to where I was at the time, too,” Levario said.

He said they were in his stepmother’s shop around the “downtownish area,” so they saw a lot of police cars, but he didn’t hear any gunshots.

“I still feel about as safe as I do now. It doesn’t really change a whole lot for me. They still put him down within, what was it like an hour or so later, so it doesn’t really change a whole lot for me. I wasn’t really affected in any particular way by it, other than that we had to be in the shop a little longer so I still feel about the same as I did before. It didn’t particularly scare me too much because I was safe,” Levario said.

Omar Ornelas, a 15-year-old freshman, said the chapel service was a powerful experience.

“I feel really sad for all the people that were affected and all the families that lost loved ones,” Ornelas said. “I never thought about that happening here. I liked it a lot ….”

Gonzalez said a chapel service Sept. 3 led by Hayter was “probably one of the most healing, peaceful times we’ve had at the school …”

Gonzalez said Hayter tied in how when he had gone through tragedy, he used scripture to understand the best he could what had happened.

“Never the why, because we don’t know why. But the what — what happened, people who died. I think that helped us as a school because he kind of just brought us together and we were able to pray for those people immediately and then we participated in the mass of the young lady, Leilah Hernandez, so our students being able to give back, to serve that family. It was really helpful and healing for us,” Gonzalez said.

“With the tragedy that happened, we needed to bring them (the students) together so that we could show unity, that feeling of unity that whenever tragedy happens, you come together you unify and you become stronger (because of it),” she added.

She said seeking comfort in God and scripture has been beneficial.

“I think that’s helped for kids just to remember to go to the Bible; we go to prayer every day. We come to God’s house every day. I think that’s helped our kids to say we have to move forward. We are not going to stay here. We’re going to keep moving forward. We’re going to keep serving…,” Gonzalez said.

Garcia provided three ways of serving:

>> For the migrant crisis: The Catholic Charities’ of two Texas dioceses — El Paso and Brownsville — are being overwhelmed helping migrants in their area with basic necessities like food, medication and hygiene products.

El Paso’s bishop writes that many migrants are being dumped at parks, bus stations and churches or just on the street, information provided at chapel.

Donations may be sent to Diocese of Brownsville, P.O. Box 2279, Brownsville, TX 78522; or Diocese of El Paso, 499 Matthews St., El Paso, TX 79907. Designate donations “for migrants.”

Catholic Charities has a critical need for canned food. They are spending $1,200 a week in canned food orders due to low donations.

Also, the Odessa Chamber of Commerce is helping victims of the shooting through the community fund. Visit odessachamber.com.

Odessa, TX

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