Originally Posted: May 29, 2018
On Friday, May 18, Tyler Cruz was running 15 minutes late. With exactly two weeks left until his graduation, the Santa Fe High School student was suffering from severe senioritis. He slid into his first-period class, video technology, at 7:25 a.m.
His classmates made their first calls to 911 at 7:32am, according to Galveston County authorities. A shooter had opened fire in an arts classroom elsewhere on campus, eventually killing eight students and two teachers. Cruz and the confused and crying students around him were ushered outside, where he heard his principal screaming “Run! Run!” as they sprinted to a nearby auto shop for safety.
“I was calm, but numb,” Cruz says now. “I actually still feel like that. I always knew something like this might happen, so it wasn’t shocking to me. It’s been happening all over the country.”
His graduation is still scheduled for June 1. The day is supposed to mark the beginning of a great new adventure for the 18-year-old. His plan was all set: attend Blinn College for two years, then apply to Sam Houston State University to pursue a business degree so he can own a company some day.
Now, as he mourns the loss of his classmates and teachers — Jared Black, Shana Fisher, Christian Riley Garcia, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Glenda Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Stone, Cynthia Tisdale, and Kim Vaughan — he’s not so sure how to feel about those dreams.
“How can I start the rest of my life when kids from my school will never get the chance to?” he says. “How should I feel? Every emotion is the wrong emotion.”
Just two months ago, Cruz was voted “Best Smile” by his class in the 2018 yearbook. But these days, smiling just doesn’t seem quite right. “I feel weird being happy or even thinking about being happy in light of everything,” he says.
His grandparents are hosting a party for him the weekend after graduation, but Cruz has asked them to keep the guest list short. It’ll just be close family members and his two best friends, Aubrey and Audrey.
“Right now, it’s important to be with my family and cherish every moment I have with them,” Cruz says. “You never know who or what will be taken away from you. You can literally be shot and die, at random, in a second — as I’ve come to learn.”
In the days since the massacre, Cruz says he’s felt uncomfortable around other classmates and friends, as conversations often become highly emotional. Instead, he has found comfort connecting with survivors of the Parkland shooting like David Hogg, who reached out to Cruz via Twitter.
“What has really helped me it [sic] being around all of my friends from the very beginning and making sure that no one is left to their own thoughts because that is the most dangerous thing to be after something like this, alone…” Hogg told Cruz in a direct message.
Hogg and several of his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School kicked off a national campaign for stricter gun-control laws in the immediate aftermath of the shooting at their school on February 14. A handful of students at Santa Fe High School took part in the student walk-out the Parkland students called for on April 20, but now that they’ve been through it themselves, the survivors in Texas haven’t been as quick to unify in the role of activist.
“The difference in Texas is the Republican Party is in complete control,” Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, told Time. “Even the young people from Santa Fe are not full-throated advocates of gun control to keep the children safe.”
Cruz’s father keeps a shotgun in a closet of their home, for protection, and the teen is torn on the topic of guns. “We need them to protect ourselves,” he says. “But then I think about all the people who have wrongly died and it’s like my thoughts are being pulled in different directions.”