One year ago today, two boys ages 11 and 13 shot and killed four girls and one female teacher outside the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Natalie Brooks, Paige Ann Herring, Stephanie Johnson, all age 12, Brittany R. Varner (11), and teacher Shannon Wright (32) all lost their lives in the shooting. In addition to the five murders, another female teacher, 8 girls, and one boy were also injured.
In recognition of the one-year anniversary of the shootings, Jonesboro residents discontinued their normal routines to observe a moment of silence. Following the moment of silence, about 250 people gathered for a memorial ceremony at the local Courthouse. A wreath of white roses and red apples was laid in honor of slain teacher Shannon Wright. Wreaths decorated with a softball, ladybugs, frogs, yellow daffodils and ivy were laid in honor of the four girls.
The Rev. Laird Duran said that Jonesboro “has not been the same” since the shooting and added that “No parent, husband or friend should have to experience this horrible loss.” Natalie Brooks’ mother Renee said, “Natalie, I love you, my darling. Thank you for all of the little signs you are still with me.”
Despite the fact that fourteen of the fifteen victims were female, the large majority of news reports and official comments on the shooting have ignored the fact that women and girls were targeted. Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden were sentenced last August and will serve in juvenile prison until they turn 18.