17 lives lost too soon mourned after Florida school shooting
When a gunman opened fire with an AR-15 at a large high school in south Florida, he claimed the lives of students with their whole lives ahead of them, along with those of the teachers who tried to protect them. Here is a look at the 17 people who authorities say died in the deadly shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:
COACH AND SECURITY MONITOR
Assistant football coach Aaron Feis was shot to death while selflessly shielding students from bullets. A tweet from the school football program ended: “He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories.”
Feis, 37, graduated from the school in 1999 and worked mainly with the junior varsity, the team website said. It said he lived in nearby Coral Springs with his wife and daughter.
The Sun Sentinel reported that Feis, acting as a school security guard, responded to the original call on a school walkie-talkie. Someone on the radio asked if loud sounds they heard were firecrackers, said football coach Willis May, who also carries a radio.
“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May said.
Yohance Williams, who plays linebacker, said “the sacrifice he made didn’t surprise me the least.”
VICTIM’S FAMILY: “LIVE FOR ALYSSA!”
Among the youngest victims was Alyssa Alhadeff, an avid soccer player whose mother screamed into CNN’s camera demanding that President Donald Trump take action.
“President Trump, you say what can you do?” Lori Alhadeff said. “You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands! Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot! This is not fair to our families and our children go to school and have to get killed!
“I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughters funeral, who is 14! Fourteen! President Trump, please do something! Do something. Action! We need it now!”
Later, on her Facebook page, she urged people to kiss their children, and “Live for Alyssa! Be her voice and breathe for her.”
FRIEND WON’T GET TO SAY ‘I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL’
Joaquin Oliver, 17, was known by his nickname “Guac,” short for “guacamole,” because many struggled to pronounce his given name.
“My friend will literally never get to say, ‘I graduated high school,’” said Tyra Hemans, a 19-year-old who said they had been friends since freshmen year.
She last saw him at school, before the shooting.
“It was just a brief ‘Happy Valentine’s,’” she said. “He was with his girlfriend and I was just like, ‘Oh my God, you guys are so cute.’”
She added, “He’s just a goofball. He’s the only kid you’d know that would dye his hair bleach-blond, walk around school, put some tiger stripes in and just be unique. He was a unique soul.”
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR ‘WAS JUST AMAZING’
Chris Hixon, a married father of two and the school’s athletic director, wasn’t shy about jumping in wherever he was needed, said friend and one-time colleague Dianne Sanzari.
Hixon, 49, belonged to a Roman Catholic church in Hollywood. The Archdiocese of Miami confirmed his death Thursday.
When a volleyball team needed a fill-in coach, Hixon took over; the same thing happened with the wrestling team, Sanzari said. When the school needed someone to patrol the campus and monitor threats as a security specialist, Hixon did that, too.
It was in that security role that Hixon apparently came within range of the shooter.
‘AN ANGEL TAKEN AWAY FROM US’
Meadow Pollack was beautiful inside and out, her cousin Jake Maisner told the Sun-Sentinel. She was a senior and had planned to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton, her father, Andrew Pollack, told the Palm Beach Post.
Meadow was the youngest of three kids and 10 Pollack grandchildren, he said.
“She was the baby of the family. Everyone wanted to protect her,” he said.
“Her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels,” friend Gii Lovito posted on Facebook.
Family friend Adam Schachtel said in a Facebook post that “an angel was taken away from us in that horrific tragedy … no words can be said so just prayers and sadness.”
Alaina Petty, 14, “loved to serve,” her family said.
She participated in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and spent countless hours volunteering for the “Helping Hands” program of her Mormon church. After Hurricane Irma struck Florida, she helped people clean up and rebuild their lives, they said.
“Her selfless service brought peace and joy to those that had lost everything during the storm,” her family’s statement said. “It is important to sum up all that Alaina was and meant to her family and friends. Alaina was a vibrant and determined young woman, loved by all who knew her.”
Petty attended a local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Petty was a “valiant young member of the Coral Springs Ward,” Church leader Stephen E. Thompson wrote in an update.
GEOGRAPHY TEACHER HELPED STUDENTS
Geography teacher and cross-country coach Scott Beigel, 35, helped students enter a locked classroom to avoid the gunman, and paid for the brave act with his life.
“If the shooter would have come into the room, I probably wouldn’t be speaking to you now,” student Kelsey Friend told Good Morning America.
Beigel “unlocked the door and let us in,” she said. “I thought he was behind me, but he wasn’t. When he opened the door he had to relock it so we could stay safe, but he didn’t get a chance to.”
Student Bruna Oliveda said she saw Beigel blocking the door.
“I don’t know how we’re alive,” she said.
14-YEAR-OLD LOOKED OUT FOR UNDERDOGS
Ninth grader Jaime Guttenberg, 14, loved to dance and hoped to become an occupational therapist and mother, aunt Abbie Youkilis said.
“She always looked out for the underdog and the bullied and she probably had been kind to the (former) student who shot her,” Youkilis said in a written statement sent to The Associated Press.
Guttenberg leaves her parents, Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg, and brother Jesse. Her father said in a Facebook post that he is “trying to figure out how my family gets through this.”
Youkilis called for gun-control legislation, saying Jaime’s parents were “the world’s most loving and over-protective parents but they could not protect Jaime from the sickness that has gripped our country.”
BALLOONS FOR THE VICTIMS
Martin Duque, 14, was one of Isaac Briones’ best friends.
“He was like, one of the nicest people I knew,” said Briones, 15. “He was so caring.”
Briones said he last saw Martin the day of the shooting during first period.
“We were just playing around, talking about jokes and stuff,” said Isaac, who was outside the school Thursday with others holding a group of white balloons for the victims.
On Instagram, Miguel Duque wrote that words can’t describe the pain of losing his brother. He added: “I love brother Martin you’ll be missed buddy. I know you’re in a better place. Duques forever man I love you junior!!! R.I.P Martin Duque!”
FRESHMAN COLOR GUARD MEMBER
Gina Montalto was a 14-year-old freshman who participated on the winter color guard squad at the school.
Friends and relatives posted tributes on Facebook, including mother Jennifer Montalto.
“She was a smart, loving, caring, and strong girl who brightened any room she entered. She will be missed by our family for all eternity,” said the post.
One of Montalto’s color guard instructors from middle school, Manuel Miranda, told the Miami Herald that Montalto was “the sweetest soul ever.”
“She was kind, caring always smiling and wanting to help,” Miranda said.
SWIMMING SCHOLARSHIP WINNER
Nicholas Dworet, 17, had committed to swim for the University of Indianapolis. The college announced Thursday that the senior was among those killed.
In a statement, UIndy swimming coach Jason Hite called Dworet an “energetic and very vibrant kind” who cheered for his soon-to-be university during a swimming meet last month.
“I spoke with his mom this morning, and she reiterated the fact that he was really looking forward to this next step in his life and becoming a Hound,” said Hite. “He really felt like he had a family in the team, and was really excited about what we’re doing up here.”
Dworet “was very positive and a very cheerful person,” his teammate Guillermo Barrios told the Sun-Sentinel. “He was the leader of the team. He was team captain. He was very leaderlike and mature.”
Peter Wang, 15, died wearing his gray ROTC shirt, and was last seen holding a door open for other students, his cousins Lin Chen and Aaron Chen told local media.
“He doesn’t care about popularity. He always liked to cheer people up. He is like the big brother everyone wished they had,” said Lin Chen.
She told the Sun-Sentinel that Wang had two brothers, ages 11 and 5, and his parents, too upset to talk, own a restaurant in West Palm Beach. They had planned to celebrate Chinese New Year’s eve Thursday.
“I feel the family can never be the same,” she said.
FAMILY SEARCHED HOSPITALS, AND THEN …
Fifteen-year-old Luke Hoyer was a loving, sweet person who loved basketball and “smiled all the time,” his aunt Joan Cox said.
“He was just a good kid … very loving and just enjoyed life,” said Cox, of Greenville, South Carolina.
She said Luke’s parents, Gena and Tom Hoyer, searched for their son at hospitals before finally going to the law enforcement command center, where they eventually learned he had died.
“It’s just a terrible thing,” said Cox, who said the family – including Luke’s older sister Abby and brother Jake – spent Christmas with her and other family in South Carolina. “He’s going to be missed by many.”
NATIONAL MERIT SEMIFINALIST AMONG VICTIMS
Carmen Schentrup was a smart girl with a sweet smile.
In September, she was named one of 53 National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists in the county and a classmate tweeted “we all praised for her intelligence.”
Cousin Matt Brandow posted on Facebook that the 16-year-old visited Washington State recently and said she wanted to go to the University of Washington. He asked: you like the rain?
“She answers, I hate sweating in the humid Florida weather,” Brandow wrote. “That’s when I knew you were perfect for Washington.”
RESERVED AND ACADEMICALLY RELENTLESS
Helena Ramsay was soft-spoken, but also smart and a go-getter, her cousin Sefena Cooper said Thursday.
The 17-year-old junior especially loved hanging out with friends and family, “and for this to happen is heartbreaking,” Cooper said.
“Although somewhat reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her,” another relative, Curtis Page Jr., wrote on Facebook.
“She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone,” he wrote. “She would have started college next year.”
MEMORIAL FOR BAND MEMBER
Trombone and baritone player Alex Schachter was a “sweetheart of a kid,” according to a social media post by his family.
In honor of his 14-year-old freshman son, a relative of the youth’s father, Max Schachter, wrote on a gofundme page that he was starting a scholarship fund “to help other students experience the joys of music as well as fund increased security at schools.”
The message said: “Please help keep Alex’s spirit alive.”
RELATIVES OF VICTIM “ABSOLUTELY GUTTED”
Cara Loughran, 14, was an excellent student who loved the beach and her cousins, according to her family.
An aunt, Lindsay Fontana, wrote on Facebook: “I had to tell my 8-year-old daughters that their sweet cousin Cara was killed in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday. We are absolutely gutted.”
“While your thoughts are appreciated, I beg you to DO SOMETHING,” she wrote. “This should not have happened to our niece Cara and it cannot happen to other people’s families.”
Loughran’s neighbor posted a picture of her cheering on a young boy riding a bike with training wheels.
“RIP Cara,” Danny Vogel wrote, “and fly with the angels. You will be greatly missed, and we will always love you and celebrate your beautiful life.”
– Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama. Contributing to this report were Tammy Webber in Chicago; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; David Porter in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Parkland, Florida; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; and Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles.