Essay: A tribute to my 10-year-old student lost to gunfire    

Photograph Jiawei Zhao

By Laury Masher Olson

An unthinkable tragedy has struck our school community: A ten-year-old student was shot and killed by another 10-year-old who allegedly had gotten ahold of his father’s gun.

A teacher at a local elementary school, I was one of Keith Frierson’s teachers. I cannot express how heartsick this had made our whole school community.

Keith had made excellent progress in reading since returning to school from the Pandemic and was one of my sharpest in math. But it’s not the academic growth I will remember most about Keith.  What I will remember most about Keith was his character.

Keith was a caring and kind student who was always willing to help. I remember our school Fall Festival last year when our class had painted cans to knock down at a can toss that was one of our games. Keith was so excited when he came up to the can toss and said, “Is that one mine?” It sure was. Keith also excelled at sports. At recess, he could be found playing basketball or most recently a new game called “Teammate” where he led a large group of students. Keith was often a leader. He had many friends and other students looked up to him. When I was away from school for a week at the end of October to attend my 92-year-old mother’s funeral, Keith watered my plants while I was away.

Right before winter break 2023. Keith and another student helped me carry my teaching supplies and remnants from our Holiday Party to my car. I had no idea at that time that would be the last time I would see Keith. Keith was part of our after-school program, and a group of students kept calling to him to come and start an outdoor game. And I remember his exact words at the time. “Calm down!” Keith said. “I am helping my teacher carry things to her car.”

Keith’s family was already dealing with the loss of his father, which happened just about a year prior to his death. His mother is a nurse who was working hard to support her two sons on her own. Keith still has a brother in 6th grade at our school. His family did not deserve this, and neither did he.

After Keith enters the pearly gates of heaven, which I’m sure is where he’ll be, I can only hope our heavenly father can let him know just how highly we thought of him and how sorely he will be missed.

As we return to school in January, I hope our community will remember Keith’s family, his young friends and his classmates who will be grappling with a life lesson they should never have had to learn.

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