Parkland Shooting Victims Included a ‘Hero Coach’ and ‘Kind-Hearted’ Teen
Hours after a teen gunman’s rampage killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, loved ones were still unsure if their children were among the dead.
Hours after a teen gunman’s rampage killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, loved ones were still in anguish as they waited to hear whether their children were among the dead.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged early on Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder, but family and friends of the victims were still issuing posts on social media asking for news about missing teens.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 12 of those killed have been identified, and 15 others were injured.
“I’m absolutely sick to my stomach to see children who go to school with backpacks and pencils lose their lives,” Israel told the Miami Herald. “We will not be releasing the names of any victims until every family and every parent is notified accordingly.”
The 15-year-old freshman was reported missing by her grandmother after the shooting on Wednesday.
“She’s the sweetest. She’s a big soccer [player], very smart,” Alhadeff’s grandmother told WSVN-TV. “She’s in track. She’s very popular, very beautiful girl.”
Her cousin Ariella Del Quaglio confirmed her death on Thursday on Facebook, writing: “Many innocent souls were taken a few short hours ago. Among them we just got confirmation was my little cousin. My heart is broken. Not sure what I can even say, I am at a loss for words.”
Her mother wrote on Facebook this morning: “She believed in people for being so honest. A knife is stabbed in my heart. I wish I could of taken those bullets for you. I will always love you and your memory will live on forever.”
She added, “Please kiss your children, tell them you love them, stand by them no matter what they want to be.”
Family friend Sebastian Gonzalez, who graduated from the high school in 2017, told The Daily Beast on Thursday that Alyssa played soccer and was an introvert who was “hard to break out of her shell” around those who didn’t know her well. She was, Gonzalez said, a straight-A student who cared very much about school and family.
Thirty-five-year-old geography teacher Scott Beigel was one of the heroic adults who shielded his students during Wednesday’s tragic shooting, the Miami Herald reported.
Beigel reportedly unlocked his classroom and helped students take shelter inside but was shot and killed trying to close the door behind them.
Kelsey Friend, whose life he saved, told a CNN reporter on Thursday:
“When he opened the door, he had to relock it so that we could stay safe, but he didn't get the chance.”
She told his family: “Thank you for bringing and having this amazing person in life and giving him the power to be stronger than I could have ever been.”
One friend said on Facebook: “Scott was one of my brother’s best friends and a part of our extended family ... I spent most of my childhood and young adult life with Scott at camp.”
He added, “This loss is tragic and my heart goes out to Scott’s family, friends, colleagues, students and his community in Parkland, FL.”
For Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg their worst fears were confirmed late on Wednesday when they discovered that their daughter, Jaime Guttenberg, had been killed, according to Local 10 News and Haaretz. Jaime’s brother, Jesse, made it home safe, according to the New York Daily News.
“My heart is broken,” her father, Fred Guttenberg, wrote on Facebook. “Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family get's through this. We appreciate all of the calls and messages and we apologize for not reacting to everyone individually. Jen and I will be figuring things out today and so we ask that you respect out privacy. We will be getting messages out later regarding visitation. Hugs to all and hold your children tight.”
Photos on Guttenberg’s social-media accounts show a dancer with orthodontic braces. One former profile picture reads “Forever Young.” Overnight, her Facebook page was turned into a memorial.
Guttenberg’s cousin Alexa Saka posted a tribute to her on Facebook late on Wednesday, writing, “You grew up to be the most beautiful, kind-hearted, driven, funny and sweet girl. You went out of your way to make everyone feel good and that smile... that smile lit up every single room you walked into.”
Saka added, “I will always cherish the time we had together. I will never understand why you were taken from us so soon but you will never be gone. You hold such a special place in my heart. My sweet baby cousin, may you sleep with the angels tonight and always.”
Martin Duque, a 14-year-old freshman, was also killed in Wednesday’s shooting. He was honored by his brother, Miguel, on Instagram.
“Words cannot describe my pain,” he wrote. “I love you brother Martin you’ll be missed buddy.”
Swimmer Nicholas Dworet was confirmed as one of the 17 victims on Wednesday, according to IndyStar. Dworet’s coach, Andre Bailey, told the newspaper that the senior was a sound swimmer and trainer for TSA Aquatics.
“This is a kid who went from middle of the pack last year to being just lights out,” said Bailey. “He helped put our program on the map.”
According to the TSA Aquatics Instagram account, Dworet had committed to attending the University of Indiana. Bailey told IndyStar that Dworet, who is Swedish, dreamed of traveling to to that country one day.
Football coach Aaron Feis reportedly leapt in front of his students to shield them from the shooter’s rampage. Late Wednesday night, according to several reports, the 37-year-old’s family was informed that he was among those who were killed. Former students told The Daily Beast that Feis was also a security guard, and a mentor to many students.
“He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot,” the school’s football team wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning. “He died a hero.”
A 22-year-old former student, Ashley Speziale, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that Feis was “always there, no matter what.”
“The kids in this community loved him, they adored him ... He was killed tragically, inhumanely, he did it protecting others,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told a press conference.
Athletic Director Chris Hixon was also among the victims, the Sun Sentinel reported on Thursday. He was later confirmed dead by family members. A rival school’s coach told the newspaper that Hixon, 49, was a “super human being. The kind of person who would do anything for anyone.”
“Chris is such a great guy,” Coral Springs High School athletic director Dan Jacob told the Sentinel. “Chris is probably the nicest guy I have ever met. He would give you the shirt off his back. He does so much. That is terrible that it would happen to anybody. It is so senseless."
One former colleague wrote on Facebook: “Mr. Hixon was not only my athletic director while I was at #SouthBroward, but his wife was also my swim coach. He was my go-to for everything (including a good laugh) while I was a substitute teacher there. His love and compassion for students was insurmountable. In the end, he sacrificed his own life to save dozens of others. Thank you #ChrisHixon.”
Hoyer’s uncle, Toni Brownlee, confirmed the teen’s death via Facebook on Thursday.
“Luke was found on the third floor of the school,” said Brownlee. “This has devastated our family and we’re all in shock and disbelief. Our hearts are broken. Luke was a beautiful human being and greatly loved.”
Another family member, Mary Stroud-Gibbs, said, “Our whole family is devastated by this senseless shooting.”
She added, “Our Luke was a precious child, who just went to school yesterday not knowing what was to come. We are all devastated and we now need all of your prayers for acceptance of this tragedy, understanding and healing our broken hearts.”
Cara Loughran was one of the victims of the Florida school shooting on Wednesday, the Herald reports.
“It is with a heavy heart and much regret that I write these words. Our next-door neighbor's daughter was one of the lives taken to soon by a senseless act of violence at Stoneman Douglas High School. RIP Cara, and fly with the angels. You will be greatly missed, and we will always love you and celebrate your beautiful life,” Loughran’s neighbor, Danny Vogel, wrote in a Facebook post.
Freshman Gina Montalto, 14, died late on Wednesday night, according to the Miami Herald.
“My heart is broken into pieces. I will forever remember you my sweet angel,” her former teacher, Manuel Miranda, told the Herald. “She was the sweetest soul ever. She was kind, caring always smiling and wanting to help.”
Joaquin Oliver, who was born in Venezuela, officially became a U.S. citizen on Jan. 17, according to his Instagram. The 17-year-old senior, who was close to both his mother and girlfriend, was confirmed dead on Thursday.
“I’m in such shock I don’t know what to say,” Oliver’s brother posted on Twitter on Thursday. “I love you so much, I hope you’re in a better place, and I’ll never forget you.”
Sebastian Gonzalez, who graduated in 2017, told The Daily Beast on Thursday that in school Oliver was “always joking around” but also attentive to his studies.
“He was extroverted and he always tried to make new friends,” Gonzalez said. “But when it was time to be serious he was serious. He was a caring person.”
Alex Schachter, a marching band student, was also killed in Wednesday’s shooting, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
“He will be missed immensely,” one family member said. “Everybody is just broken up and beyond shocked… His family adored him and we're all really just in shock.
An extended family member told The Daily Beast on Thursday, "he was a great kid, he was very loved and will very missed. He was like any other American kid. I can remember him wrestling around with his cousins. He was so full of love and life."
According to the Herald, Schentrup—a sophomore—was a 2017 National Merit Scholar semifinalist.
Sebastian Gonzalez, who graduated in 2017, told The Daily Beast on Thursday that he played violin with Schentrup. He described her as “talkative,” “caring,” and “kind.”
“There’s a certain kind of family that you build through music class,” said Gonzalez. “It becomes a family, and Carmen was part of that family.”
Another friend wrote on Facebook: “I was in the same classroom as this beautiful soul, she was so bright and had her entire life ahead of her. She was someone we all praised for her intelligence.”
The Bishop of the Coral Springs Ward confirmed in a Thursday announcement that 14-year-old Alaina Petty was killed.
Her great aunt also posted about the teen’s death on Facebook, writing: “There are no hashtags for moments like this, only sadness.”
High school senior Meadow Pollack, who reportedly planned to attend Lynn University next year, was confirmed dead on Thursday by the Herald.
“Please say a prayer for the family of an amazing girl I got to call my best friend growing up,” one friend wrote on Facebook. “Her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels. Rest In Peace my beautiful angel. You are and forever will be loved.”
Officials with the Broward County Sheriff's Office said on Thursday afternoon that Helena Ramsey was among those killed on Wednesday.
A family member wrote on Facebook on Thursday that Helena was “a smart, kind hearted, and thoughtful person. She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was some what reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her.”
The 15-year-old was a member of the school’s ROTC program, according to local reports.
He was last seen in ROTC uniform holding open a door so that others could escape the gunfire, according to the Herald.
His cousin Aaron Chen described the teen as brave and a good friend.
“He wasn’t supposed to die,” Chen told reporters. “He was supposed to grow old with me.”
Additional reporting contributed by Taylor Lorenz and Elisha Brown.