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Westside survivor on a mission to help victims of Texas tragedy

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 4:06 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The horror that played out in a Texas school earlier this week devastated much of the country. But none more so than those who have been victims of school violence.

Northeast Arkansans witnessed the pain first-hand when two Westside Middle School students opened fire on their classmates.

The March 24, 1998, shooting left four students and a teacher dead. Ten others were wounded.

Ashlee Betts was among those shot who survived.

Now she’s packing up to leave for Texas to provide comfort and hope to the people of Uvalde.

“Going through a tragedy is not a choice,” she said.

Tuesday’s tragedy in Texas is another reminder of what she lived through when she was just a teen.

“It brings back memories,” she said. “It is almost an unnecessary evil when you are trying to speak with victims.”

Since that shooting 24 years ago, Betts has used that memory and experience to provide comfort to others and deliver an important message.

“I am here. I am an adult now,” she said. “There is hope after a trauma.”

She wants to share that hope with the families of the 19 killed in Uvalde, much as she did immediately following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Betts traveled to Florida to listen.

A simple act but so powerful for victims of a school shooting. Victims who Betts can connect with on a level so many of us cannot.

“Somehow, that gives you a connection to where you feel open to speak,” she said. “When you feel open to speak and a connection like that, sometimes there is a connection you didn’t even know you had.”

In addition to listening to the victims and their families, Betts has another mission: To provide journals to the community. Journals that will provide an outlet for the community and in which the victims can privately express their feelings.

“To have that private escape and no judgment is beneficial when you’re going through a tragedy,” Betts said.

She delivered hundreds of journals in Parkland. She hopes to hand out just as many in Uvalde.

“A strong community, I believe, helped me and also helped the city of Jonesboro,” she said. “Tragedy is especially challenging and mind-altering for a child.”

For those wishing to contribute to Betts’ mission, she has created a GoFundMe account. To make a donation, click here. To donate journals or checks to victims directly:

“Robb School Memorial Fund”

200 East Nopal St.

Uvalde, Texas 78801

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