No matter what your perspective on society, it’s impossible to deny that the last few years have been strange, to say the least. There are powerful trends occurring that affect just about every aspect of our lives, many of them not for the better.
Perhaps one of the most tragic has been the rise in frequency of mass shootings, school shootings in particular. They’ve gone from something that happens once every few years, to months, to just weeks…
All Too Common
Because the shootings happen so often, we have naturally become somewhat desensitized to the violence. Each occasion simply becomes a town, a number of people killed, and maybe the shooter’s name in our minds. Then, the usual cycle of fruitless debate begins again before our collective attention moves on to the next thing.
But it’s important to remember that each of those “numbers” was a real person, needlessly cut down. They had a life, a family, hopes, fears, and everything else that makes someone human. One such person was Cynthia Tisdale…
Cynthia was a woman coming up to her 64th birthday. She and her husband had been married for close to 50 years and had raised 3 beautiful children together. Those children, who are now adults had kids of their own, a total of 11 between them and to her, those children and grandchildren were the most important things in the world. Her niece Leia said that she’d “never met a woman who loved her family so much.”
Aside from her family, Cynthia’s other major love in life was teaching. Despite her age, she still worked as a full time substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School. “She worked at the school not out of necessity but for the love of teaching and helping others,” her son Recie said…
Living To Help
“To know my mom was to know a person who lived to help those in need,” he added. “We all loved our mother very much.” Reice was a League City police detective and his daughter, Cynthia’s granddaughter actually attended the high school where she worked and the 2 would often meet up in the mornings, though she was running late on the morning of May 18th.
That was the morning that 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis came to the Santa Fe High School with a shotgun and a .38 revolver and went on a shooting spree in the school’s art complex where Cynthia Tisdale was subbing that day…
Moving from classroom to classroom, Pagourtzis fired on students and teachers, seemingly at random. He was confronted by at least one of the school’s armed security officers who took a bullet in the upper arm as he tried to stop the teenage gunman. As police mobilized a response to the scene, her son Recie was notified by a friend and coworker about the shooting.
Can’t Reach Mom
It was roughly a half-hour from the time the first shot was fired until Pagourtzis was apprehended by police after being pinned down in a gunfight, with Recie arriving shortly after. “Once the scene was somewhat secure I was contacted by my father who could not reach my mom,” the detective said…
“I knew that 2 female teachers had been killed along with several students. Not long thereafter I determined that one of the teachers was probably my mother,” he said. “It was very hard to go from assisting others to being horribly affected by this tragic event.”
Cynthia had indeed been killed, as had one other teacher and 8 students. Thirteen other people were also injured in the attack. As mentioned above, each of those people is so much more than a simple statistic…
While there isn’t enough space in this story to do each of the victims justice, the names of those killed are Sabika Sheik, Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Shana Fisher, Kim Vaughn, Chris Stone, Christian Garcia, Jared Conard Black, and Kyle McLeod.
“There are no words to explain how saddened my entire family is for all those involved,” Reice said. While any senseless death is a tragedy, Cynthia’s death was perhaps more tragic than most because of what she left behind…
In addition to being survived by her children and grandchildren, Cynthia was survived by her husband William who, just a couple of years ago had been diagnosed with a chronic lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
For people with that lung condition, the life expectancy is usually less than 5 years. In December, William had been hit with a double whammy, saying he only had 12-18 months to live, while at the same time telling him he’d been denied the lung transplant he needed to survive…
His last chance was an expensive lung stem cell treatment. In order to pay for it, the Tisdale’s put up a GoFundMe page about a month before the shooting. In a letter his son posted to the GoFundMe, William wrote “With the procedure I have a chance for more time with your momma (my wife of 47 years), my children, and my wonderful grandchildren who I so much want to see grow up as much as possible.”
I Pray This Will Work
“There are times breathing is almost impossible and to feel like I’m choking is very scary and a feeling I do longly pray to not keep feeling,” he added. “I pray this will work even just a slight bit [it] would be so much worth it for me. I love you. Dad.”…
Intersection of Tragedy
Like a tragic Venn diagram, the two distinctly American problems of school shootings and excellent healthcare out of reach due to cost had both struck this one family. Perhaps the silver lining of Cynthia’s death is that it brought attention to the GoFundMe for William’s procedure, which went from raising little money to raising well over the necessary amount in just a couple of days.
It was bittersweet consolation at best that the death of the mother helped save the father. But perhaps no one would have been happier that some good could come out of her pointless death than Cynthia herself. “Words don’t explain her lust for life and the joy she got from helping people,” said Eric Sanders, the fiance of Cynthia’s niece.
On the morning of the attack, Cynthia was thinking about others just as she had for every other day. She had to get to the school early but had left a note 2 hours before the shooting that said “Had to go meet teacher. I love you. Hope you feel better today. Love Mom. Left you breakfast.” In her typical style, she’d doubled up on love.
The Tilsdales have since framed the note as a final memento and Cynthia’s brother-in-law John made a Facebook post about it saying “We never know when our death will come. Cynthia had planned on retiring one day and being a full-time grandmother. It will never happen.”