When the only thing left behind is a shoe

Valencia High senior and artist Lexi Coleman drew a shoe representing the only thing left behind by students running from an active shooter. Courtesy

As Valencia High senior and artist Lexi Coleman has begun applying to art schools, she’s had a lot of time to think about her future.

“It wasn’t until recently that I wanted to start telling stories with my art,” the 17-year-old artist said, adding that she’s been drawing since she was 4.

After the Nov. 14 shooting at Saugus High School that left three dead and three injured, Coleman was inspired to put that concept into practice.

That morning, Coleman had called Josie Romero, her father’s girlfriend, as she knew Romero’s son went to Saugus.

“She called me within the hour, and I was crying on the phone to her,” Romero said, proceeding to describe what she saw that morning as she neared the school to drop off her 15-year-old. “I’m usually hyper-aware because kids dart (into the road), and all of a sudden, I see groups of kids running out from the school.

“My first thought was, ‘Why aren’t they using the crosswalk?’” she said, adding that she immediately realized something was wrong and she even saw a group of kids jump into the back of a pickup truck, yelling at the driver to “go.”

“After they had run, the only thing that was left was someone’s shoe,” Coleman added. “I felt that that was very poignant. This person was so scared they didn’t even realize or stop to pick it up as they ran for their life.”

Starting with a black piece of paper and white charcoal, she drew the image of a single shoe, adding a “Saugus Strong” logo and coloring it blue to implement Saugus’ colors.

Valencia High senior and artist Lexi Coleman drew a shoe representing the only thing left behind by students running from an active shooter. Courtesy

“The shoe represents everyone in the community,” Coleman said. “This could have happened to anyone and has affected the whole community.”

She, too, remembers worrying about school shooters in her freshman year of high school. “It’s always in the back of your mind as a high schooler, and was always running through my head that today might be the day.”

For Romero, the event was traumatic as her son typically hangs out in the quad before school, and it was that picture of a shoe that struck her as extremely powerful.

“I literally had just helped her put her website together, so I’m very familiar with her art,” Romero said, adding that she had asked Coleman what she wanted to get out of going to school. “She said, ‘I want to be able to have my art make a difference and be impactful in some way.’”

After posting the artwork on the Saugus Strong Facebook group and seeing the replies, Romero knew Coleman had done just that. “I told her that everything she wants as an artist is what she created — she accomplished that and this was a sign.”

Coleman still has survivor’s guilt, but said she’s been honored to see the “incredibly positive” reactions she’s received.

“Because of the shooter’s actions, we as a community have suffered the effects together,” Coleman wrote in a story to accompany the artwork. “The owner of this shoe is no longer a topic of concern. Now, the question is what do we do with it and how do we pick it up and slip it back on? It’s simple. We take the laces, retie them and understand that we are going to be OK.”

To see more of Coleman’s artwork, visit lexicoleman.com

Valencia High senior and artist Lexi Coleman drew a shoe representing the only thing left behind by students running from an active shooter. Courtesy

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