• Santana High School - 20 Years Later

  • When people experience a traumatic event, the date of that event can sometimes live on with them, even plaguing them with anxiety as that date nears. For years, I have watched calendars end out the month of February and I immediately felt uneasy as we knowingly entered into the month of March. This year, that anxiety struck me a tad early as I sat in early February realizing that next month, March 5th marks the 20-year anniversary of the shooting at Santana High School. I'm not alone in the acknowledgement of this milestone as many of my social media friends are previous classmates, and most notably, my husband Brandon whom I met on campus our senior year. Us and the 1500+ students enrolled at that time are part of a forever club we never wished to join.  
    Although a large amount of time has passed, somehow, we can still be haunted by the memories of our experience. It was just last month that I made a purchase from a local vendor when she asked about me living in Santee. She noted her friend was one of the first to arrive on scene for the shooting as a local firefighter, not realizing I was already there on campus as a student. As adults now, we (the students on campus that day) have all expressed a vast difference in the emotional impact it has had, or still has, on us. For some, I can remember them being so immersed in the aftermath and following the news of the shooter - even I had a "viewing party" for his arraignment which aired live on TV, praying he plead guilty and we wouldn't have to endure a trial. For others, they were closed-off and unable to speak of what we saw, regardless of the number of times the school encouraged us to take advantage of the free counseling sessions offered. The typical PTSD had reached most, with nightmares and the involuntary jumping now when we hear loud noises (especially balloons popping!), but some were more open and shared their grief willingly as they attempted to heal from something so horrific. We were just kids after all. Kids in a place where we had never before questioned our safety, never before second-guessed stepping into a bathroom, never before saw blood spill from bodies and stop walking because we were paralyzed with fear. 
    So where does that allow us to land as we are now 20 years later? WE are still here. WE are still alive. Yet I'd bet my bottom dollar that every student on campus from that day still remembers the names of the two who are not. Those two will always remain "boys"; not graduating like we did, not moving into adulthood, not carrying on with new lives and children of their own. Having a high-school-aged child of my own now, I hurt in all new ways for the parents of those boys. They had their most important life's work stolen away from them without even a mere warning; I will forever pray for those families whose hearts will never fully recover, and I vow to always speak the names of their lost boys: RANDY GORDON & BRYAN ZUCKOR. 
    As a result of March 5, 2001 the Gordon-Zuckor Memorial Scholarship was established by the Santee-Lakeside Rotary Club. Traditionally, two students are chosen each year from Santana, each receiving a $1,000 scholarship. The winners are selected by the Rotary Club through an essay and interview process with the focus of anti-bullying and peace efforts through leadership. Funds for this scholarship are now dependent on private donations. It is my hope that this scholarship remains funded for the foreseeable future, or at least for now, the NEXT 20 years. I plan to obtain and give contributions as an ongoing effort to allow these boys to continue to have their names still spoken, their voices still heard, and their memories still alive and well within our community. 
    If you were there that day as a student or staff or first responder, if you're Santana Alumni of any year, if you're a community member who remembers that day, who helped with the healing, who hurt for our town... Please consider a donation to the Santee-Lakeside Rotary Club and when you send in your payment, send it with Randy and Bryan's name attached. I'm proud to say my husband and I were the first to contribute through their newly set-up Venmo account; a first of many donations. One School One Heart.
    Gordon-Zuckor Memorial Scholarship Fund
    PO Box 711408
    Santee, CA 92072

    Direct Online Payment: 
    Venmo @SLRotary