ODESSA, Texas — They gathered as the children they are near the statue of a cowboy-hat wearing Prairie Dog in Prairie Pete Playland Park.
But they left radiating the best qualities of adulthood — defiance, determination and benevolence.
Nearly 100 teens from two area high schools, Odessa High School and Permian High School, met Monday evening with the simple purpose of deciding how they could help the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting, which has left seven dead and 25 wounded.
School resumes Tuesday after the holiday weekend. Classrooms and hallways will take on a more sober cast. But for tonight, action was in the air.
After a brief prayer circle, up stood Bryce McKenney, 17, a recent Odessa High School graduate who now attends nearby University of Texas-Permian Basin, where on Sunday night hundreds of locals came together for a memorial.
McKenney, who organized the impromptu assembly, announced that the goal would be to stage a massive fundraising event in a few weekends with proceeds going to those in need.
Lending the joint effort more significance is the fact that the two schools have a legendary rivalry, one chronicled in the book, and later fictionalized on TV, “Friday Night Lights.”
“The Odessa-Permian rivalry is something crazy,” said McKenney. “We don’t get along. But everyone’s together.”
McKenney bellowed his vision to the crowd. ‘I’m talking, softball tournament and car wash and food stands,” he said, freshly dyed blue hair sprouting from beneath his backwards baseball hat. “What else do you have for me?”
An avalanche of suggestions ensued.
“Let’s contact some bakeries, they may donate some food?”
“We’re on the Permian yearbook staff, we can handle the advertising!”
“Hey we are dancers, can we do a dance performance?”
And so it went for an hour. An unquestionably cathartic hour for a group that, brave faces aside, continues to struggle with fear and uncertainty in the wake of an event the likes of which none had ever imagined visiting this tight isolated community on the dusty, oil-rich outskirts of the Texas republic.
“This place will never be the same,” said Cole McNabb, 18, a senior at Permian Basin. “People will be jumpy forever. Someone who you were close to maybe won’t be there forever.”
‘I never drove so fast in my life’
McNabb was in his truck Saturday when he approached the Cinergy movie theater complex east of Odessa. Suddenly, he heard gunshots — police had at that moment caught up with and killed the lone suspect in the mass shooting.