How will you react in an emergency? Santa Fe school shooting survivor wants to prepare you

Surviving a disaster often depends on how ready you are for the unexpected. So Southeast Texas high schooler is hosting an emergency preparedness event because she knows firsthand, the devastation of a deadly ambush. 

17-year-old Jai Gillard is a Santa Fe High School shooting survivor who never wants anyone again to be completely caught off guard by tragedy.

For instance, every safety expert will tell you anywhere you go, always have an exit plan. That’s just one potentially life-saving tip you’ll learn at the teenager’s free disaster preparedness event called "Fighting The Unknown."

"It's important to be proactive, like my mom always says, and prepare for anything we can," explains Santa Fe High School Senior Jai Gillard.

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One of the event speakers is Stephen Willeford, the man who stopped the gunman that killed 26 people in a Sutherland Springs, TX church in 2017. In fact, a number of emergency experts will offer training at the event.

"We’re going to have a helicopter from PHI Air Medical. They will talk about what they do," explains Gillard, who has had training of her own at the Texas School Safety Center's Texas Youth Preparedness Council.

She wants to share that, including identifying and responding to danger. Things she had no idea how to do when she was a freshman and survived the deadly school shooting in 2018.

"I’m not sure how I survived. All I know is God’s protection was definitely over me."

During the shooting she hid in a closet, where the gunman soon opened fire, killing several people hiding with her.


"Ms. Tisdale, she was the substitute teacher that day in my class and then (students) Sabika Shiekh, Jared Black and Christian Riley Garcia. I believe those are the ones that we lost in the closet I was in."

Now the high school senior is helping teach safety in active shooter attacks.

"The Fighting the Unknown event can tie it all together and put some closure to a chapter that we’re leaving."

T-shirts she helped design will also be available. They feature empowering words on the front, "Fighting the Unknown #ClubHope. Get Involved. Be Prepared. Stay Connected".    

Fighting The Unknown will be held outside and almost an emergency preparedness family-friendly festival, complete with attractions for kids of all ages.

The event is Saturday, March 6, 2021, at Santa Fe High School from noon to 5 p.m. While the event is free, the t-shirts will be sold to raise money for senior scholarships.