Wow. Man. I’m just now remembering. I had this recurring dream. It started after the shooting. That movie Dawn of the Dead had just come out. I dreamed that John Christian was leading this big group of zombies from the projects near where I lived. They’d come over the hill and kill everyone around me. . . . You know, I consider myself to be a pretty strong-minded person. But after talking about all this, I’ve been in a very weird state of mind. I can’t really describe it.

—Andre Terry, student of Grayson’s

A few days after the shooting, Bazar visited his friend at the Gardner Betts juvenile detention facility, in South Austin.

“Can you believe it?” John asked, referring to the shoelaces and belt that the authorities had taken from him for fear that he might attempt suicide. The two boys sat in the cafeteria. John seemed caustic and above it all—qualities that Bazar had, under very different circumstances, once found attractive. During their half-hour conversation, John took issue with a report in the media that he had said “The joke’s on you” before shooting Grayson.

“There were only two people close enough to hear what I said,” John remarked. “And one of them isn’t talking.”

For years, Bazar would be haunted by this conversation. Why did John seem so unaffected?

No one, including the Christian family, was disputing that he had intentionally killed Grayson. Still, as a juvenile, he could not be charged with murder and tried as an adult. The worst John could expect—under state juvenile laws that would be toughened during the nineties—was to be judged guilty of delinquent conduct and confined to a Texas Youth Commission facility until he turned eighteen. The new Travis County district attorney, Ronald Earle, publicly announced that he intended to seek the five-year maximum “if the boy is found sane.” Though juvenile trials are not typically open to the media, an exception was made in this case (those with firsthand knowledge of why an exception was made have died, declined to be interviewed, or simply cannot recall).

The Christians hired the city’s most prominent criminal defense attorney, Roy Minton. John’s fate rested in the hands of state district judge Hume Cofer, a by-the-book jurist who was not regarded as a softie. Austin was a small town in those days, so it was no surprise that Judge Cofer, like George Christian, had an LBJ connection: his father had been Johnson’s attorney following his scandal-ridden 1948 U.S. Senate race.

There was another connection that wasn’t reported at the time. Earlier that same year Minton had managed to get a drug charge thrown out against Cofer’s estranged son. (It’s not clear whether Earle was aware that Minton had previously represented Judge Cofer’s son. Earle has been ill for some time, according to his wife, Twila, who spoke to me on his behalf. Reached by phone, Earle’s assistant district attorney Jacqueline Strashun could not recall for sure if Cofer, who died in 2016, had disclosed the association but added, “Judge Cofer was a very, very straight guy, probably the most ethical judge at that time.”)

Minton hired two psychiatrists to evaluate John and supply expert testimony. One of them, Daniel Matthews, has since been recognized as a pioneer in the therapeutic treatment of pathologically violent juveniles. The other, Richard Coons, was one of the state’s most prominent psychiatric experts at criminal trials, one whose judgments often resulted in murder defendants’ being sent to death row. Like many Austin professionals, he knew the Christians socially.

On June 2, 1978, two weeks after the shooting, John sat outside a small courtroom at Gardner Betts while the two psychiatrists testified inside to Judge Cofer that John was “acutely depressed” and suffered from “latent schizophrenia”—the latter being an inexact, catchall term that would eventually fall out of favor in the psychiatric community. (When I spoke with Coons recently, he told me, “My feeling overwhelmingly was that he was depressed.”) The prosecution did not contest the recommendation by Coons and Matthews that John receive treatment rather than incarceration. And Cofer concurred with Minton’s two experts. He ordered that John be remanded to the care of the Timberlawn Psychiatric Hospital—a private facility in Dallas for which the Christians would be paying the bills—until his eighteenth birthday or until he had recovered.

On Monday, June 5, 1978, Jo Anne and George flew with their son and a probation officer to Dallas, where John reported to Timberlawn.

Elaine Moore, a former student of Rod Grayson’s who witnessed the shooting, photographed at Murchison in February. Photograph by Dan Winters

Sept. 17, 1979, Mon. 5:37 pm

Dear Elaine,
It was really neat to hear from you. I have not seen you in a long time. I’ve been up here now for a year and three months, some of which has been real hell, the rest of which has really been good. I have definitely changed a lot since I came here, and it has been a really good feeling to change this way. I haven’t heard from you, so I don’t really know what to write. The music I’m into is the Doobie Brothers, Moody Blues, Pablo Cruise, Queen, Simon & Garfunkel, the Little River Band, and The Doors—plus another hundred like Santana, Kansas, Styx, Chicago, and Boston who I think are good. I heard from Katie and now from you that you’re now a Disco Queen. More power to you; the moves you made at the Valentine Dance in 1977 were impressive enough. I still only slow dance, because I’m not too rhythmic. It doesn’t take any effort to stand in one spot and go in circles.
Write soon,
Love, John

—Letter to former classmate Elaine Moore, from Timberlawn

It is a cornerstone of civilized societies that sharp legal distinctions are drawn between children and adults. And it is a medical fact that the adolescent brain is far from fully developed—which means, among other things, that a violent youth, even a murderous one, is not inexorably destined to a life of brutal criminality. That’s especially true when no resources are spared to treat a violent adolescent, as was the case with John Christian.

Timberlawn, which opened in 1917, was a national model for inpatient treatment during the time of John’s residency. The population of 150 or so residents included about thirty juveniles, of whom no more than sixteen in John’s age range were housed in a separate dormitory. The institution offered a full academic curriculum as well as a rigorous daily regimen of group and individual therapy with multiple mental health professionals. As Dr. Jerry Lewis III, who worked at Timberlawn from 1982 to 1994 and whose father was the chief psychiatrist during John’s stay, put it, “The idea was to not just use behavior modification to change a boy’s aggressive antisocial behavior but also to use psychotherapy to get him to appreciate the fact that his behaviors are attempts to ward off deep and painful feelings. So for eighteen months or thereabouts, you have them confront their defense mechanisms and talk about their core issues. As they work through their core issues, it changes the driving forces behind their behavior.” That approach began to recede during the nineties, as Texas and other states moved toward cheaper and harsher measures to deal with juvenile violence. (Timberlawn was closed in early 2018.)

John had been at Timberlawn for twenty months when a representative of the Christian family returned to Judge Cofer’s courtroom. The representative requested that the original order to institutionalize his client be modified. The Christians asked that their son be permitted to visit Timberlawn on an outpatient basis. They proposed that the boy live with an unnamed physician in Dallas, who would become John’s legal guardian. On February 19, 1980, the judge granted the request. The decision was not made public.

Nearly a month passed before Statesman reporter Guillermo Garcia was tipped off that John had moved in with a Dallas family. He began making inquiries. George agreed to meet Garcia at his office on the eighteenth floor of the American Bank tower, in downtown Austin. The former press secretary declined to supply information about whom his son was living with or how the determination had been made that John should be treated on an outpatient basis. He did tell Garcia that his son “had to remain in Dallas for treatment and we are, of course, not living there.” Garcia also spoke to someone he described as being “familiar with the case” who told him that Timberlawn psychiatrists “felt that to continue the on-site care would effect a regression” in the boy’s mental health. Though George did not want the Statesman to publish Garcia’s story—and, indeed, a few people representing the Christians had paid a visit to then–editor in chief Ray Mariotti to express that very sentiment—his posture was anything but belligerent. To Garcia’s surprise, the typically stoic father broke down in tears.

“If I’d just done more for John earlier, been around more,” George said quietly.

Garcia’s story ran in the Statesman anyway. What remained unreported until now was the identity of the man who had become John’s adoptive father. He was a Dallas eye doctor named John Eisenlohr, who was a prominent member (and later the president) of the Texas Ophthalmological Association, a group whose lobbyist was George Christian.

Eisenlohr’s children attended Highland Park High School, in the affluent community where John would spend the next two and a half years. He enrolled at Highland Park High in the middle of his sophomore year. Rumors swirled around the quiet new student. One of his new classmates came across a newspaper story that identified John by name and described him as “schizophrenic.” The classmate wondered, Why is he at our school?

Those concerns subsided over time. John returned to his passion, drama, and also became the news editor of the school paper, the Bagpipe. (A Dallas friend of George’s wrote him to say that her daughter worked on the staff of the Bagpipe and “has mentioned how much she admires the work John did and how intelligent he is.”) The Dallas media left John alone. So did the Austin press.

John graduated from high school on schedule, in May of 1982. That summer, he returned to the city of his youth and enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin.

A few weeks after the shooting, John’s classmates graduated from Murchison. The following school year, they were bused to different high schools. They had spent the previous two years together, and their abrupt separation constituted a kind of loss unto itself. Who could possibly relate to their experience? “You didn’t know what to do with all the emotions,” John Ray recalled. “The message was ‘Move on, move on.’ ”

So the Murchison kids tried to move on. For Ray, it was as if the next few years were completely erased. His Murchison friends were gone. His parents divorced. At sixteen, he began to drink heavily. His driver’s license was suspended after he racked up speeding tickets. Austin felt strangely unsafe to him, even aside from willful recklessness. He toggled between hedonism and religion, each in zealous doses.

Ray was among several Murchison alumni who went on to UT. There, they began to see John Christian on campus. It was jarring. Without ever consciously coming to this conclusion, most of the Murchison kids presumed that they had suffered two losses on May 18, 1978—their beloved teacher and their promising classmate. Few, if any, had considered the possibility that John might reappear in their midst. And they learned of his reentry into their world not through any notice from authorities but instead through word of mouth and random encounters.

One former classmate, Cathy Olson Muth, was home from college, eating with her family and friends at a restaurant in Northwest Hills, when she happened to see a familiar reflection in a mirror. “John Christian is sitting right behind me,” she whispered to her mother.

Wow, she thought. He’s back in the neighborhood. Nothing is ever gonna happen to that guy.

Cathy Olson Muth, a former student of Rod Grayson’s who witnessed the shooting, photographed at Murchison in February. Photograph by Dan Winters

Another Murchison student, David Mider, ran into John at the Texas Tavern, in the UT student union, and learned that the boy who had killed one of Mider’s favorite teachers was now studying at UT. How am I supposed to process that? Mider wondered. (John went on to study at the university’s prestigious law school. The State Bar of Texas requires law students to disclose only current character issues and mental illnesses, not past ones.)

In 1990, Susie Gerrie Davis was living in Fort Worth and reading a book at home while her two young children napped when she inexplicably started to cry. Then the images resurfaced out of nowhere. The boy with a gun. The teacher on the floor. Blood gushing. The noises: the gunshots, the screams, the scraping of chairs. And then, as Davis would write in her 2015 book Unafraid, “I could smell everything. Gunpowder. Pencils. Chalk dust. The perfume I sprayed on my T-shirt that day.”

Later, she began sharing her trauma with a small group of Christian women. Bit by bit, she recalled panic attacks she’d experienced in high school, moments of jogging past John’s house in Northwest Hills and being afraid that he might see her. As Davis recalled in Unafraid, until fully accepting God’s love and the injunction of forgiveness that came with it, “I figured John had wrecked my life at fourteen. He walked in with that rifle and blew away my childhood, my sense of safety, and my hope for a happily ever after.”

In 1993, soon after she and her family returned to Austin, Davis was shopping for breakfast cereal at a grocery store in Northwest Hills with her four-year-old daughter when she heard someone say, “Hi, Susie. How are you doing?”

It was John. Hugging her daughter close and wanting to scream, Davis carried on a banal conversation about his job and about her church. It was only after she got her daughter into the car that she began to sob. Then she prayed to God for grace toward John. Slowly, she could feel compassion seep in.

At a charity gala in downtown Austin in 1992, Peyton Smith—by then a 28-year-old attorney—looked across the dance floor to see a smiling and tuxedo-clad John coming his way. John hugged him. “It’s so good to see you,” exclaimed the classmate Smith had last seen with a hunting rifle in his hands.

John attempted to make small talk, but Smith abruptly cut him off and told him that he owed a visit to someone else. Walking away, Smith felt a sense of disgust. Unlike his old friend Davis, who had been swallowed up by fear and then moved by her faith toward forgiveness, the boy who had been closest to the line of fire that morning had since carried himself with a sense of imperviousness.

But he had yet to make peace with the incident. As he would write on the Facebook group that Ray dedicated to Grayson, “That moment is still as raw and real and technicolor today as forty years ago.”

Peyton Smith, a former student of Rod Grayson’s who witnessed the shooting, photographed at Murchison in February. Photograph by Dan Winters

Ray, in the meantime, had continued to spend his post-Murchison years in a state of what he would tactfully term “self-anesthetizing.” A wayward path took him to Central America, where he was inspired to later attend seminary and become a spiritual director—essentially a roving ordained minister gravitating to those who had experienced trauma. But Ray had not so much as acknowledged his own emotional scar tissue until one morning in April 1999, when he was driving through the University of Arkansas campus and heard on the radio about the mass shooting at Columbine High School. Suddenly, he thought he saw a jumbo jet nosediving into Razorback Stadium. He pulled over to the side of the road, awaiting a fiery explosion. But it never came. The hallucination portended something. Something in his psyche began to crack open.

A few days later, Ray drove twelve hours northwest to Littleton, Colorado. Rolling past the high school, wandering through the memorial sites and services, Ray felt curiously at home with the grieving, as if his own trauma had been given permission to voice itself. “It all felt surreal,” Ray said. “Twenty years overdue. I don’t remember talking to anyone specifically. I think it was all I could do just to be there.”

Ray called his old classmate Susie Gerrie Davis, who happened to be in Colorado on vacation. They met up for the first time in years to talk about the grief they’d carried for two decades. Davis later called their former teacher Marilyn Eichenbaum DuVon, who then reconnected with other former students who were in Grayson’s classroom that day. They were among the many Murchison alumni who would later recall the Columbine tragedy as a moment when they felt engulfed by their own past and became, in effect, witnesses again to the loss of their innocence.

Ten years later, in 2009, Ray’s youngest daughter, Olivia, who was ten years old, was struck by a Cadillac Escalade and killed at a street crossing on Razorback Road while her sister Hannah watched. The driver of the Escalade was a well-to-do lawyer’s son who hailed from Highland Park and who was attending the University of Arkansas. Ray’s pro bono lawyer was outmatched by the legal team assembled by the young driver’s father. Faced with a protracted battle—and not wanting to see a young person suffer for something he hadn’t intended to do—Ray and his wife ultimately chose not to pursue civil litigation.

His daughter’s death did not make Ray angry at God. But he found plenty of fault with God’s creatures. He couldn’t fathom how the world continued to carry on while an innocent girl lay buried, and how quickly some young men were issued reprieves. Still, the fury was as oppressive as the grief. “Then came the deep work—the ‘Okay, what do I do with this? How do I deal with it?’ ” he recalled. “Reading, praying, counseling. It peeled back all the layers. And beneath all the destructive behavior and armoring up emotionally, there was that one event.”

Susie Gerrie Davis, a former student of Rod Grayson’s who witnessed the shooting, photographed at Murchison in February. Photograph by Dan Winters

Ray recounted all this while sitting on the patio of a South Austin coffeehouse one morning this past September. He had a notebook in front of him that he had been filling with random musings. The notes were the beginning of a book manuscript that a literary agent was urging him to write. Its tentative title is “A Field Guide to Grief.”

It was my first face-to-face meeting with Ray. But our initial conversation had been twenty years earlier, just after the Columbine High School massacre. He was trying to get in touch with a former classmate, Rob Draper, who he’d heard had just published a novel. Ray looked me up—and, yes, I had just published my first novel. But no, I wasn’t the Rob Draper who had gone to Murchison. Still, Ray kept talking. Within minutes, I was learning for the first time about the shooting on May 18, 1978.

Like most Austin journalists, I knew George Christian as a towering, back-slapping eminence. It struck me as odd that I had never heard about his son’s having killed a schoolteacher, particularly since I had been a staff writer at Texas Monthly for most of the nineties. After speaking to Ray in 1999, I wrote John Christian a letter to see if he would be willing to share his story in GQ, where I was working at the time. A few days later, my phone rang. It was George. “John won’t talk to you. None of us will talk to you,” he said. “And if you publish this story, it will destroy our family.”

My editor at GQ ultimately decided the story would not work without the shooter’s participation. In the ensuing years, I gave little thought to the Austin tragedy. George died of lung cancer in 2002, and Jo Anne died in 2015. Then, on May 18, 2018, I received an email from a Washington, D.C.–based journalist named David Nather, whom I had never met. The subject line was “Question for you—Murchison shooting.” Nather, as it turned out, had attended Murchison in 1978 and had been outside during gym class when John emerged from the school entrance with a rifle in his hand. He had heard from Ray that I had looked into the story and was curious why I had dropped it. The shooting was on Nather’s mind, he wrote in the email, because that day marked its fortieth anniversary—a fact that he might have forgotten but for the reminder he received courtesy of the morning’s horrific body count at Santa Fe High School. “Even for those of us who weren’t in the classroom, there is a chilling kind of flashback that happens with every school shooting,” he wrote me.

Like others who had experienced the Murchison shooting, Nather remained perplexed by the aftermath: the swiftness of the court proceedings, the secrecy that attended John’s road to recovery, and the seeming normalcy of his adult life. Everything was a gnawing mystery. In Nather’s view, the recognition that so many lives were deeply affected by the shooting was proof that such a story needed to be written. What had kept him from writing it himself was that he hated the thought of bringing anguish to his former classmate John Christian.

I heard that sentiment expressed by nearly all his Murchison classmates. They do not bear John any ill will. Still, none of them understand what drove him to kill the teacher he seemed to love as much as they did. Given that no one had ever explained anything about John’s treatment and release from custody, some worried that he might still be capable of committing a violent act. Even those who believed him to be harmless couldn’t help but be bothered by the soft landing he seemed to have been accorded.

The family’s position, which has remained unchanged over the years, is that a thirteen-year-old boy fell into a deep, perhaps psychotic state of depression and committed a terrible misdeed. As a juvenile, he was entitled to anonymity. But because his father was a public figure, the boy’s identity was splashed across the front pages. He received intensive psychiatric treatment, was deemed by professionals to pose no threat of further violence, and was released to live a quiet and productive life. He has done all the system has asked of him. No more need be asked or should be asked, especially after the passage of so many years.

Of course, juveniles are often named by the media in cases involving murder. And though sentencing laws vary widely across the country and have evolved over time, the system has historically tended to ask a great deal more of juvenile killers. In 1984 the system asked 12 years in prison of a fifteen-year-old Colorado boy named Jason Rocha, who suffered from depression but had committed no prior acts of violence before he shot his thirteen-year-old friend to death. In 1988 the system assigned 206 years in prison to a Montana boy named Kristofer Hans who, as a fourteen-year-old, had murdered a teacher and wounded three others after he received a failing grade. In 1992 Texas sentenced Edwin Debrow to 27 years for killing a cab driver during an attempted robbery—despite the fact that the twelve-year-old was too young to stand trial as an adult. (Texas Monthly’s Skip Hollandsworth wrote about Debrow.) While touring several Texas Youth Commission facilities for a Texas Monthly story about juvenile justice I wrote in 1996, I happened to meet a number of juvenile killers. They all came from low-income backgrounds and were, with few exceptions, children of color.

Yet for the witnesses of the Murchison shooting, their longing for justice has little to do with the length of John’s sentence—and, indeed, many would agree that more juvenile offenders should be treated as John was, rather than the other way around. As University of Texas professor Marilyn Armour, the founder of the Institute of Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue, told me, “There are some people who believe that the amount of time served, the severity of the punishment, will bring some measure of closure or satisfaction. According to the research I’ve done, that’s not what happens at all.”

Armour is among the criminal justice reformers who have pressed for opportunities in which all stakeholders in a tragic event can come together and articulate their discontents and needs in the interest of restorative justice. Such occasions have famously occurred in resolving interethnic calamities in South Africa and Rwanda and throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. On a smaller scale, restorative dialogues have been used in disputes between local police and their respective communities, including in Austin.

In any such scenario, however, the process can succeed only if both sides participate. “Getting answers is what brings resolution,” Armour said. “And beyond getting information, there’s equally the need to express what role this particular event has played in their lives.”

Today, because of the absence of information, those who watched John shoot their teacher are still left wondering about a fundamental question: Has he ever expressed any remorse?

Some of them have searched for answers themselves. A few years before the fortieth anniversary, Ray was visiting Austin and jogging around Lady Bird Lake when he thought he saw John. He looked him up in the phone book and left John a voice mail: “Hey, I know this is weird, but I would really like to get together and talk.” He never heard back.

One person close to John told me that he has felt great sadness over the years for what he did. John’s older brother, George Scott, described him as “a really fine family person. Gentle. He’s been a great uncle to my kids. He’s a really great brother. I have nothing but good things to say about him in the settings I see him in.”

While George Scott fully acknowledged the magnitude of the tragedy for the victims of that day’s events, he also explained that in his view, his brother has “done remarkably well, given the terrible thing that happened. He’s definitely made the most of the opportunity that he’s gotten.”

But George Scott went on to say that he, like the witnesses to the shooting, has been haunted by the incident. “I’ve never spoken with him about it. I’ve talked about it with my wife quite a bit. ‘Should I do that?’ I’m just a scaredy-cat. I’ve been very hesitant to open the issue, and I probably should have. And I may yet do it. I’ve talked to my therapist about this. I’ve been advised it might help me come to terms with it as well. I’ve had the conversation with other people in the family, but not him. It’s crazy. We’ve thought, What happened? What happened? You know, there’s been that conversation. But we have not done a good job bringing it up directly. I’m not proud of that.”

As Ray explained it, “The tragedy is that Mr. Grayson was killed. The collateral continuing tragedy is this silence around the event.” He added, “I know a couple people who’ve said, ‘We don’t know where this [Texas Monthly] story is going.’ They don’t want it to be a hit piece on the Christian family or something that says, ‘This kid escapes justice.’ I don’t want to hurt John. At the same time, I don’t think the opposite of that is to deny what happened to us. I think we can tell the story, we can own the pain, we can call this what it was, without being in the spirit of hurting the person who did it.”

You ask how I got through? Maybe better to ask how I’m getting through. I will never be “over” seeing Mr. Grayson murdered by a friend and classmate. I will never get over losing Olivia. I have gotten through in the past by ignoring the events, denying their reality and power. . . . I’m getting through now by trying to be more honest, trying to show up, pay attention and stay in the game. . . . I seek to put myself, as much as I’m able, in the proximity of others suffering. . . . As a pastor I try and lead our church to embrace the refugee, disabled, those on the margins, those turned away from other churches. I try and pay attention to my own pain and not expect more from myself than I can give, knowing I will be a fraud if I do. . . . I know these words may make me sound noble or wise, but understand, if I knew another way that was easier, one that I didn’t see ending me up as an utter shipwreck, I’d take it in a heartbeat. In the end, this is the only path I see that makes sense, that has any hope, however long the shot. I get no satisfaction from feeling like I’ve found some secret. I’m incredibly grateful for the sense of being found and rescued, in spite of myself, in spite of what could have been, in spite of all that is.

—Letter from John Ray

Laura and Rod at their wedding, in Laredo, on August 19, 1972. Photograph by Dan Winters

Laura Grayson has been back to the cemetery only once since Rod’s funeral. Their son, Ian, was an eighth grader by then—coincidentally, the same age as Rod’s students when he was killed—and she wanted him to know where his dad’s grave site was, in case he ever wanted to visit. Rod had once told Laura that when he died he would like to be ferried in a boat downriver in the manner of a Viking funeral or maybe sent off into space. Then again, he also said of being buried, “That’s not where I am.”

She knew that. She saw him instead in dreams, and when she lit candles, she remembered how he once laughed at her Catholic rituals and then said, “We’re doing a pact. Whoever dies first has to come back and tell the other if the candles mean anything.” After Rod died, she went to see a psychic, who informed her, “He’s standing behind you. He’s got his hands on your shoulders, and he’s kissing your head. And he wants you to know that every candle you light helps to light the way.”

But where she really saw her husband was in the classroom. Laura had been a teacher before Rod became one, and she continued that work long after he died. Where he had mesmerized Murchison’s gifted and talented, Laura taught mostly those who were socially disadvantaged or at risk. Better to continue applying her passions in this manner, she had decided after his death, than to bask in bitterness.

Easier said than done, of course. Back in the early nineties, Laura happened to meet a woman who had worked as an intake officer at the Gardner Betts juvenile facility, where John had spent two weeks immediately after killing her husband. She recalled that on the same day that John was arrested, two Latino boys were brought in for shoplifting. Those boys were subsequently sentenced to a juvenile institution for their crime. The sense of injustice overwhelmed Laura. “But if I allowed anger to control me, what kind of life would I have made for Ian?” she said. “I remember making that conscious decision.”

Laura Grayson at her Austin home in February. Photograph by Dan Winters

She sued the Christians for negligence a year after Rod’s death. Two years later, in 1981, the two sides settled for an undisclosed sum that included a trust fund whose proceeds Ian would receive on his eighteenth and twenty-first birthdays. In 1995, after the first installment of that money arrived, Laura and Ian sought to fund a bench that would be dedicated to Rod, situated on a trail he loved on Lady Bird Lake. She was told by city authorities that no space was available. Laura couldn’t help but wonder if she would have gotten a different answer had her last name been Christian.

Recently, a fellow schoolteacher told Laura that he had traveled to Emporia State University, in Kansas, over spring break to visit the National Teachers Hall of Fame. A new site had been erected, called the Memorial to Fallen Educators, which was designated as a national memorial in 2018. The names engraved on two granite slabs include teachers from Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Santa Fe—and, yes, Wilbur “Rod” Grayson, from Murchison Junior High.

Now that she’s retired, Laura is hoping to travel to Emporia to see her husband’s name among the others: a roll call of more than 120 heroes, a list that grows every year.

Robert Draper is a contributing editor at Texas Monthly, a contributing writer at National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine, and the author of the upcoming book To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.

This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Aftermath.” Subscribe today.