There was a coach—the athletic director at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—who was among the first victims while acting as a campus security monitor. There was another coach who shielded students from gunfire—he was also among the 17 who died that day. There was a teacher and coach who lost his life as he offered students a safe haven in a classroom. And there were 14 other innocent people who died at the hands of the 19-year-old male who is accused of going on a killing rampage last Wednesday morning. And there were others who were wounded in that rampage, but who survived.
If you have followed this story you know about the shooter. He had an AR-15 rifle and carried smoke grenades and had a gas mask. You may know that some of his former friends had decided he was too weird and seemed too inclined toward violence. We may also know he was expelled from the school he attacked because of a fight he had with another student.
Let’s remember instead the athletic director at the school, 49-year-old Chris Hixon, who readily jumped in wherever he was needed, and when the school needed someone to patrol the campus and monitor threats as a security specialist, Hixon was there. Apparently while in that role he came within range of the shooter and was among the first to die.
Remember as well 37-year-old Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach at the high school, who put his life second and put the lives of the students first. Witnesses said as the suspect began shooting, Feis, who also worked as a school security guard, went into action, putting himself in the path of bullets. He initially survived, and players asked people to pray for his recovery. Unfortunately he later died of his wounds.
Also, students said 35-year-old geography teacher and cross-country coach Scott Beigel helped them enter a locked classroom shielding them to avoid the gunman. He paid for the brave act with his life. And each person whose life was taken had his or her own story.
The first murder described in Scriptures was when Cain killed Abel, his brother. Abel, we are told, found favor in God’s eyes as a result of his more acceptable sacrifice. Cain murdered him in a fit of jealous rage. No serious student of the Bible would choose to model his or her behavior on that of Cain, and Abel’s faith is what we are taught to remember of the pair of brothers. There will always be evil, we are told, until the end of time. We can try to balance evil with good, and it is the good in the world that we should honor and celebrate.
As we study this latest mass shooting incident we will surely hear other stories of heroism and unselfish acts. Hopefully many of these have survived. In one example, teacher Melissa Falkowski pulled every student she could find into a closet, where they huddled, scared and silent, but survived, along with the heroic and quick-thinking teacher who saved them.
Clearly part of the problem is the misuse of weapons, whatever they might be, and part of it is campus security, in spite of the efforts of two good men who gave their lives trying to keep the school safe.
We properly mourn the 17 innocent victims who were robbed of their lives, and we properly honor those who treated the wounded and the officers who captured the killer. And we also properly honor all those who risked their lives and safety to save others, including those who survived.
Hopefully this tragedy will help teach us how to avoid future tragedies like it, but it is up to those who survive—wherever they may be—to learn and apply those lessons.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.