HOUSTON - Monday marks two years since the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School. It’s a day we remember the 10 lives we lost, honor the 13 who survived and pay tribute to the countless others whose lives were changed forever.
"It was everything but a normal high school experience," said graduating senior, Rome Shubert in a massive understatement.
Two years ago, Rome was one of 23 people shot at Santa Fe High School. A bullet struck the then 16-year-old in the back of his head.
"It went straight through. It was a shotgun pellet. It just went straight through the back of my head and then out of my ear. During the ambulance ride, in my head, I was like okay am I ever gonna get to play baseball again? If I just got shot in the head, there's no possible way that I'm going to be okay," Rome said.
Miraculously, Rome was just fine. In fact, he was in out and of the hospital within four hours. He didn’t need surgery, rehab, or even stitches. Within another month, Rome was back on the baseball field – pitching.
"The doctor said that if there would have been like any other spot -- up, down, left, right -- anywhere else and I probably wouldn't even be moving around doing anything. The trajectory of it was just perfect," Rome said.
In November, he signed with The University of Houston, impressed with the coaches and their facilities. But most importantly, becoming a UH Cougar meant a chance to stay close to his family.
"My whole family. My grandparents on both sides, mom, my dad, have watched pretty much every game that I've played since I was five years old till now. So it meant a lot for me to have them to be able to easily watch me play - at least for home games," Rome said.
Leading up to Rome's senior year and the 2020 baseball season, Santa Fe High School was in a solid position to become the state champions, only to have their chances ripped away by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We, we were ranked number one coming into the season -- number one in the state for 5A. It's really frustrating. Just knowing, knowing the caliber of the team that we had and then having to just kind of ripped away from this and blink of an eye, really frustrating," Rome said.
"I mean I wouldn't say it's the worst possible thing that could happen, but it's pretty close to the worst possible thing that could happen because baseball is the thing that keeps me going," Rome continued.
Baseball has always been Rome’s motivator, his distraction, his escape. Without the sport, dealing with the reality of the pandemic and its shattering effects is much harder, especially on the eve of the two-year mark of the deadly shooting.
"I mean sophomore year, we had Harvey. And then the school year gets shut down because what happened at the school. And then this year senior year, you think like after everything, this year is going to be great. It's going to be perfect, flawless and all this happens. It's just weird. It doesn't feel right graduating high school like this," Rome said.
Despite all the shortcomings of his high school experience, Rome refuses to let what happened on May 18th, 2018 define him. Instead, he’s determined to make a name for himself and never take anything for granted.
"I don't want to be remembered for that. I want to be remembered for something great that I do, whether it's on the field, or it's in the community, the city. Anything other than that day," Rome said.
"Whenever I can get back on the field, I'll hit the ground running. And I'm never gonna look back because I mean, all this happening just makes you think you can't take anything for granted you, I had come into this season. I was pumped up and just kind of thinking like, there is nothing, there is absolutely nothing that could tear the season apart and then all of a sudden, there's something that tore the whole season apart and farther than I ever thought could even happen. So you got to really embrace everything right at that moment," Rome continued.
Rome will be one of about 350 Santa Fe High School seniors that will be graduating in June. The school will be having an in-person commencement at its football stadium with new safety regulations in place.
Graduates will only be allowed a limited amount of guests and will be required to wear a mask when they cross the stage. Santa Fe ISD Trustee said the district is still working on finalizing plans.
There will also be a virtual memorial happening Monday morning for the Santa Fe Community. Anyone interested in paying their respects should visit here.