Remembering the Westside Middle School Tragedy

Sculpted sundial by Curtis Steele at Westside Middle School Memorial Garden

by Miranda Reynolds
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – School shootings continue to bombard America; for some schools, it serves as a reminder of the past.

Westside Middle School experienced a school shooting March 24, 1998. This month marks the 20-year anniversary of the tragedy that killed five people.

  • Natalie Brooks, 11
  • Paige Herring, 12
  • Stephanie Johnson, 12
  • Brittheny Varner, 11
  • Shannon Williams Wright

The anniversary of the shooting remained in the Westside Consolidated School Board members’ thoughts in the February meeting. Vice President Darren Harpole addressed the board and audience with information regarding the Florida school shooting.

“We are working on this as a district. Our security team, we looked over our procedures. We talked about ways we can tighten stuff up so that we don’t leave anything out there,” Harpole said.

In further discussion of the topic, Harpole said the school strives to keep students safe.

Brandy Myatt, a student of Westside Middle School at the time of the shooting, remembers the day vividly.

She said talking her experiences through with friends and family proved to be difficult.

“With them not being there that day, they honestly don’t understand fully what we were going through,” Myatt said.

Myatt did not begin coping with the experience until the following summer.

Myatt does not support guns in school as a protection of students.

She said many ways exist to help those trying to coping.

“Take their time. Don’t rush the healing process, honestly. That’s where the ‘take their time’ comes in. Talk it out, if they can. If they can’t talk to their parents, then talk to their peers. If they can’t talk to their peers, then seek help. Get help any way that they can,” Myatt said.

Listen to more of Myatt’s interview with Miranda A Reynolds

Richard Carvell, retired department chair of Arkansas State University’s Radio and TV Department, worked from 1971 to 2008 in various positions. Carvell and his students stayed very hands on during the Westside Middle School shooting media coverage.

One of the more vivid memories Carvell explained dealt with the aftermath of the shooting.

As school shootings continue to occur, Carvell said he reacts in three ways.

“Of course I’m saddened at the loss of life and then I get angry. I think to myself and sometimes I say out loud, ‘Why aren’t we doing something to help the people who are going off the deep end and take out their frustration?’ We just don’t know enough to help those with mental problems,” Carvell said.

Listen to more of Carvell’s interview with Miranda Reynolds.

The Westside Middle School keeps those lives lost in a Memorial Garden located on campus.