Four Oxford high school seniors share how a mass shooting changed their outlook on life in a Free Press story to coincide with their graduation.
Lauren Hudson, Bryce Esman, Zoe Touray and Jace McCarthy, all 18, paid homage to their lost classmates at the Thursday ceremony:
Lauren bedazzled the initials of the four slain students into her heels. Bryce has 42 decorated on his phone case, the number Tate wore on his football jersey, along with four hearts. Zoe created sweatshirts with the four students' names on it, all in different fonts to represent their different personalities. Jace, with the school choir, performed in the students' honor ...
The paper reports they're all moving forward "with the kind of searing clarity that often only comes with pain ... more aware of every second of their lives that pass." Lauren said she wants to "live life," get a good job and build a family "for the four we lost.
"I am very determined in life now because of what happened, and I have the strength."
Each student interviewed for this article said the events of Nov. 30 taught them that life is precious and sometimes fleeting.
Bryce said the shooting prompted him to "reset" his perspective on life.
"It made me just kind of reset for a second and look at everything in a newer light, and take people's time and who they are as so much more important," he said.
Jace is counting the seconds in his life more closely.
"Every second is every second, they really do count up," he said.
Lauren said to her, it represented a loss of innocence.
"It made me realize how precious life is and how one moment you can be just so innocent," she said. "Then it just feels like it's been taken from you."
Zoe said that at times she feels more closed off, more reserved — but also buoyed by hope.
"It's also given me a lot more hope in a way," she said. "Just seeing how our community came together."
Three of the students plan to attend college next year while Jace will take a gap year.
The Nov. 30 shooting at the school killed students Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin and injured six others and a teacher. Justin and Madisyn would have graduated this week.