Memorial to bombing victim Draylen Mason unveiled in Walk of Heroes
Jun 11, 2018
Family, friends and community leaders gathered Saturday in East Austin for the unveiling of a mosaic memorial to 17-year-old Draylen Mason, who was killed in a bombing attack this past March.
The plaque with Draylen’s image joins the Walk of Heroes, which honors individuals who have made a significant impact on the Austin community. The walk marks the entrance to Southwest Key Programs on Jain Lane, which operates tuition-free East Austin College Prep, where Draylen attended high school.
“Today we are celebrating his life, a wonderful young man with a lot of patience, creativity, understanding, love, caring, and I think basic to all this was his great Christianity,” the program’s founder, Juan Sánchez, said at the induction ceremony. “He was a wonderful human being. And he is one of our heroes.”
Attending the ceremony were members of Draylen’s family, including his mother, Shamika Wilson, who was injured in the blast that killed her son on March 12 after he picked up a bomb disguised as a package on their doorstep.
The three-week string of bombings in Austin killed Draylen and Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old husband and father, and left five people injured. The suspect in the bombings, 23-year-old Mark Conditt, died March 21 when he apparently detonated a bomb inside his car as police approached the stopped vehicle in Round Rock.
On Saturday, Wilson spoke publicly for the first time since the attack that killed her son.
“I am just thankful for the outpouring of love that we have received thus far,” she said. “This is one of the hardest things for us to have lost our son, but to have him celebrated in such an awesome way by people we know, people we don’t know, people who felt like they knew him, that is just a testament to us, but really it is a testament to God.
“It just shows that God is love, and that’s what Draylen was.”
Draylen’s friends performed spoken word, poetry, dance and music, offering tributes that honored his creative legacy. The high school senior was a talented musician, who played the double bass with Austin Soundwaves and the Austin Youth Orchestra. He had been accepted into several esteemed music schools, including Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.
“I did not know Draylen until that hateful day on March 12 that changed this community, your lives forever,” said Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley, who led the department during the bombings. “I have now had the benefit and the honor of getting to know Draylen, getting to know who he was, getting to know what he stood for as a result of you raising an incredible young man. … Draylen was a hero, not for how we lost him, not for how he was tragically taken from his family and this community, but for his life lived and for the example that he set for so many others.”
A representative from the city of Austin read a proclamation issued by Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council, recognizing June 9 as “Draylen William Mason Day.”
“His passion and hunger for a full life was undeniable during his short time on earth,” the proclamation stated. “His influence will continue to inspire the actions of his family, his friends and the whole community.”
Previous people inducted into the Walk of Heroes include East Austin social justice activists Bertha Williams and Susana Almanza. Draylen’s brother, Marcus Dodson, said Draylen is the youngest person to receive the honor, a testament to what he accomplished in his short life.
“I told myself I did not know what I would do if I ever lost a brother,” Dodson said. “My brothers are parts of my soul and to lose one is the same as losing a piece of me. In many ways I don’t know how to carry on, but when I think of the greatness of Draylen it motivates me to persevere.
“His memory will never fade. His achievements will always be displayed. His name will echo in all inside our hearts. Draylen William Mason will forever be commemorated as a hero in our lives.”