Organizer of Westside memorial benefit ride remembers tragedy 20 - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Organizer of Westside memorial benefit ride remembers tragedy 20 years later

A memorial ride and benefit helps to provide much-needed funding to maintain the Westside Memorial Gardens. (Source: KAIT-TV) A memorial ride and benefit helps to provide much-needed funding to maintain the Westside Memorial Gardens. (Source: KAIT-TV)
The benefit ride begins and ends at Westside Middle School. (Source: Christopher Scott) The benefit ride begins and ends at Westside Middle School. (Source: Christopher Scott)
Krystal Scott was one of several students who exited the middle school building at Westside. (KAIT-TV) Krystal Scott was one of several students who exited the middle school building at Westside. (KAIT-TV)
Many area sponsors help to make the benefit ride possible each year. (Source: Christopher Scott) Many area sponsors help to make the benefit ride possible each year. (Source: Christopher Scott)
Christopher "Topher" Scott has worked to gather the Warrior Family each year for the fundraising ride. (Source: KAIT-TV) Christopher "Topher" Scott has worked to gather the Warrior Family each year for the fundraising ride. (Source: KAIT-TV)
(KAIT) -

Twenty years later, the words don't come easily. Krystal Scott grips her husband's hand as she remembers a spring day that would be marked by gunfire, tragedy, and confusion.

"It's something that stays with you a lot throughout your life," Krystal said. She was in the same class as several of the victims of the shooting.

 "We all left the building at the same time. I watched it all happen," Krystal explained.

Students left the building because a fire alarm had sounded. The alarm would lead to students evacuating the building and becoming open targets.

"I was in fifth grade at the elementary at the time," Topher said. Six years ago, he and several friends worked to create the Westside Memorial Ride and Benefit.

"When we went out there ten years ago, it was really downhill," Topher said of the memorial at Westside Middle School. "We decided we needed to do something about it. So we stepped up and started organizing this event and didn't know that it was going to get to the level that it is now."

So far, the benefit ride has raised over $30,000 to make repairs and maintain the gardens that pay tribute to four students and a teacher who were killed on March 24, 1998. Stephanie Johnson, Brittheny Varner, Natalie Brooks, Paige Ann Herring, and Shannon Wright died that day. They are remembered every year at the benefit ride which starts at the Westside Middle School parking lot and ends up at the school. 

"There's a moment of silence is at 12:41 p.m.," Topher said. "There's a prayer and then we leave. I can't stress enough that yes... there's going to be a lot of motorcycles and motorcycle people. But, I encourage everyone to come out. Cars follow us every year. We'll go through Cash, Egypt, then Bono and then we come right back to the Middle School."

The Westside Memorial Ride and Benefit will be Saturday, March 17. Registration starts at 9:00 a.m. The cost is $20 per person; couples are $30.

Over the years, money from the ride and contributions have helped to pay for much needed upkeep of the memorial.

"We've been able to sandblast the sundial out there and get it repainted," Topher said. "We took the wooden deck down and made it a concrete deck which will last a lot longer. With metal rails, we've been able to do the prayer pole. And, also prune the garden up and thin it out with new mulch."

If you are unable to participate in the benefit ride, contributions can be mailed to:

Westside Memorial Garden

 c/o Earl Webster 

P.O. Box 3

 Cash, AR 72421  

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