News Roundup: Friends And Family Gather To Remember Austin Bombing Victim Draylen Mason

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 28, 2018 2:18 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

East Austin College Prep hosted a vigil Tuesday night to celebrate the life of 17-year-old Draylen Mason. He was killed by the man behind a string of bombings in the city earlier this month. DaLyah Jones, with KUT News in Austin attended the vigil.

Jones reports that hundreds of students, staff, parents, and city officials gathered to share stories about Mason. (You can hear the entire story from Jones here.)

Like the time in second grade when he proposed to a few of his classmates with his mother’s rings that she seemed to never be able to find. But Mason wasn’t just known as a jokester or hopeless romantic. He was determined, smart and caring. Jacqueline Vidal teaches social studies at East Austin College Prep School. She says she met Mason when he was in seventh grade and he was one of the reasons she continued teaching.

“One of the very few students my first semester here that asked questions about me. That wanted to get to know me and that I developed a very special relationship with,” Vidal said.

Vidal also says it’s through Mason’s peers that he’s remembered – and loved.

“I know I’m supposed to be strong and I know other teachers can vouch for this, but it’s the kids that are being strong,” she said.

Draylen Mason’s funeral will be held this Saturday at Austin’s Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

The Texas House held the first meeting of its Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse on Tuesday. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus formed the new committee last year, after the 2017 legislative session.

During the hearing, state representatives heard just how bad the problem is in Texas compared to the rest of the country.

Sonja Gaines, with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, testified that of the 25 cities in the U.S. where the opioid problem is the worst, four of them are in Texas.

“Those are Texarkana, Amarillo, Odessa and Longview. Texarkana was ranked number eight in the nation,” Gaines told the committee.

Gaines added that more than 1.5 million adults and more than 1 million kids in the state need substance abuse help. This legislative committee is working on proposals for how to address the opioid crisis ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

Researchers are looking into an unexpected effect of Hurricane Harvey: more ants. Specifically, they are red imported fire ants from South America, which can mold themselves into giant rafts to cascade over floodwaters. (And did so, during Hurricane Harvey, as shown here.)

Scott Solomon at Rice University is tracking how these ants are responding to Harvey. He explained some of his findings to Houston Public Media.

“So it’s possible that fire ants are going to come back with even more ferocity [laughs] than they had before Harvey simply because it’s possible that their competitors are going to be harder hit than they will be.”

Solomon adds that because red imported fire ants evolved to survive frequent flooding, they have an advantage over species native to southeast Texas. That means once their population rebounds, it could be booming.