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Poem Helps Student Cope With NAS Shooting

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

As news of an active shooter aboard Pensacola NAS unfolded Friday, there was a lot of anxiety for students and staff at the nearby Little Flower Catholic School. To help them cope, students were asked to write about their experience of the day as a way of processing and remembering the events.

On this Monday, just three days after the shooting, there was a sense of normalcy at the school on Lillian Highway. It sounds like the typical banter between middle schoolers as they transition from one class to another.

But, on Friday, things were far from normal, from the start.

“So, we all found out what was going on when we were making our way to school. So, when we got here we were all just like confused and all talking about it together,” said 8th grade student Sophia Delarosa.

“Since we’re so close to the base, we actually had to be on lockdown because of what was going on. So, it took us a while to actually process what was happening.”

Sophia had no family on the base, but her grandfather is a retired Navy veteran who lives here in Pensacola, and she was aware of some school ties to the base.

“A lot of our teachers, like our 4th grade teacher, her husband is in the military and our second-grade teacher, Mrs. Wolfe, her husband is too. Actually, I think she lives on base, so she has a lot of connections there,” Sophia added.

“Yeah, so I found out on my way to work, since I have a number of friends who are in flight school,” said Isabella Henriksson, an English teacher at Little Flower Catholic School.

Henriksson says the knowledge that the threat was primarily contained to the base, gave her a sense of comfort.

“So, my biggest concern is that the students felt that as well, reminding them that they didn’t have anything to worry about in terms of their safety and that we would do whatever we needed to make sure they were safe and comfortable and to try to keep it as normal as possible.”

As a teacher of English and Literature, it was natural that would have her students put their thoughts on paper. It’s something they do on a daily basis, writing about various topics, including current events.

“If things happen in the media and out in the world and the kids are talking about it, I encourage them to process it that way, especially since that’s what I do myself. So, knowing the importance that’s had in my own life, it’s easy to suggest that as well,” Henriksson said.

Most importantly, there was a recognition that Friday’s shooting could be etched in the students’ memories for the rest of their lives.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
The flag at Little Flower Catholic School has been lowered to half-staff in honor of those killed in a shooting at NAS Pensacola Friday. The school was locked down due to its proximity to the base.

Four people were killed, including the gunman, and several others were injured; the school was placed on lock-down due to its proximity to the base, as the sound of sirens reverberated; and the tragedy has garnered national and international interest.

“I don’t know what impact this day will have on them and I think that if 20 years from now they still remember this day, it could be really meaningful to have something from the day that it happened,” Henriksson explained. “So, that’s kind of what I was thinking when I suggested they write about it, that they might want to know how they felt in the moment as a child.”

Henriksson and the students in her class discussed the events of the breaking news story and wrote about them. But, at the end of the day, one student seemed to say it best.

Eighth-grader Sophia Delarosa wrote a poem entitled, “nothing happens here.”

“nothing happens here”

by Sophia Delarosa

“nothing happens here”

we complain of our city

whether slow-moving and dull

or sand covered and pretty

“nothing happens here”

we sigh with relief

as others face problems

we needn’t face grief

“nothing happens here”

we shrug to ignore

warnings we hear

are suggestions, nothing more

“nothing happens here”

we’re shocked by what could never be

but sirens scream loud

and red lights we see

“nothing happens here”

we repeat, defending our home

as hearts break and fists shake

for this city is our own

“As the day moved on, we heard a lot of people in our classrooms and even through the whole school, saying ‘Wow, this is crazy,’ because nothing happens here in Pensacola and we don’t really gain a lot of attention that way, you know,” said Sophia in reference to the inspiration for the poem. “And, so, I think from my own personal experience, thinking somethings like, ‘Wow it’s kind of boring, like nothing happens here,’ and then taking that for granted.”

According to Sophia, her poem is an acknowledgement of how shocking the base shooting was and how grateful we should be that nothing like that usually ever happens in Pensacola.

She now knows boring can be good.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.