Community Processes Weight of St. Louis School Shooting

Liberty reacts to the local tragedy at CVPA High School

Countless+school+buildings+across+the+country+have+fallen+victim+to+gun+violence.+CVPA+High+School+was+the+latest+to+join+that+list.+

Kay Copeland

Countless school buildings across the country have fallen victim to gun violence. CVPA High School was the latest to join that list.

Kay Copeland, Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Ledger

You never think that it will happen to your community. Each year, the horror-filled headlines only seem to gain momentum until they all blur together. Yet you never think the ineffable tragedy will strike your area, until it does. All of a sudden, national headlines host the name of your city while images of your community – grieving what may be the most traumatic event they’ve endured – are plastered across the population’s social media feeds.

For the city of St. Louis and the families of Central Visual & Performing Arts High School, this horror became a reality last October. A gunman and former CVPA student, 19-year-old Orlando Harris, infiltrated the building on the morning of Oct. 24, murdering two and injuring nine others. Harris took the lives of a 15-year-old student, Alexzandria Bell, and a 61-year-old teacher, Jean Kuczka. Harris was killed in the attack after exchanging gunfire with police. 

Not only the surrounding community, but the nation gathered around mere hours after the attack, painstakingly waiting for any and all information to be released. 

Senior Lillia Clay was not aware about the attack until weeks after it happened. With the ambush occurring in St. Louis, a city with a notable gun violence epidemic, it’s not hard to understand Clay’s perspective.

“I’m a little bit shocked and kind of scared. Kids that do this typically are known for having issues at home and I’m scared that this can happen to anyone,” Clay expressed. “It’s really saddening, especially since it happened in a city as dangerous as St. Louis.” 

Though Clay has not processed the weight of this tragedy for as long as most of the community has, she still understands the importance behind the conversation of gun violence prevention. 

“This can happen to anybody, whether it be here in Lake St. Louis or far away in Florida or California, or anywhere else,” Clay explained. “Having this conversation is beneficial because it can prevent this from happening again and bring more awareness to the safety of students and teachers.”

Junior Victoria Nguyen heard about the shooting when she got home from school that day. Her parents informed her that the Wentzville School District Superintendent, Dr. Danielle Tormala, sent out an email addressing the attack. 

This can happen to anybody, whether it be here in Lake St. Louis or far away in Florida or California, or anywhere else. Having this conversation is beneficial because it can prevent this from happening again and bring more awareness to the safety of students and teachers.”

— Lillia Clay

“I thought about how this isn’t common in Missouri. I was especially shocked to hear it happened in St. Louis because I used to live there,” Nguyen recollected. 

Even though a school building should be one of the safest places for children to be, Nguyen spoke about the looming feeling parents know all too well when they send their children off to school.

“I’ve seen videos of kindergarteners having to have a bulletproof vest in the back of their backpacks. It’s so sad that nowadays we have to do this.” Nguyen continues, “Instead of sending your kids off to school and wishing them a good day, parents have to worry about their kids getting shot.”

Nguyen concludes by conveying her vision for the future of gun violence prevention. While understanding that a gun is needed for self defense circumstances, she still believes that the process behind obtaining a gun needs to be revamped. 

“To get a gun, you need to be interviewed, have a background check done; I think it should be a long process. In so many places throughout America, you can just straight up buy a gun.” Nguyen expressed, “I understand getting a gun for personal protection, that’s entirely reasonable. Someone broke into my garage so I understand why you would get one for self defense, but the process to get a gun needs to be more extensive.” 

The surrounding community will undeniably continue processing and grieving this attack for years to come. Without a doubt: students, teachers, parents, and citizens of St. Louis will never forget the appalling impact of the CVPA High School shooting.