Parkland High School Shooting: Heroic coach critically injured trying to save students from gunman
Initially thought to be dead, the more recent developments suggest that Aaron Feis is alive but gravely injured. But he is not the first teacher to put his body on the line to protect his students.
The shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida by 19-year-old gunman and former student Nikolas Cruz claimed 17 lives, with local authorities reporting that 12 of the victims had so far been identified.
According to the latest developments, the names of two victims have been made known: 49-year-old Chris Hixon, who was the high school's athletic director, as well as student Jaime Guttenberg. Local 10 news reported that her parents, Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg, confirmed their daughter's death and said that their son, Jesse, had made it home safely.
Her father had previously posted a status update on Facebook which read: "For those wondering, I have Jesse and he is OK. We cannot reach Jaime. If anyone has a child who saw or spoke to Jaime, please call me at..." and a picture of his daughter which was shared over 3,000 times. It was removed once the parents learned that Jaime was killed in the shooting.
The other confirmed death was Chris Hixon, who had previously been employed in South Broward High School as their athletic director. Tributes poured in from all quarters for Hixon, with Coral Springs High School athletic director Dan Jacob telling the Sun-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."
A heroic story emerging from the despondent event is that of Hixon's colleague and football coach Aaron Feis. Feis had worked as a security guard at the school for at least eight years and according to various Twitter accounts, had jumped in front of numerous students to protect them from the shooter. Feis had himself graduated from the school in 1999 and had spent his entire coaching career with the school since.
While initial reports claimed that Feis had passed away, drawing tributes from social media, later updates suggest that he is severely wounded but survived the shooting. Describing Feis as a 'quiet person with a good sense of humor' he took his role of protecting students very seriously, according to former student Andrew Hoffman, who said: "He's very well dedicated to the safety of the school during the daytime."
Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval bullets covering other students at Douglas . pic.twitter.com/8AMG7t6tpH— Charlie Rothkopf (@RothkopfCharlie) 14 February 2018
Charlie Rothkopf, a student at the school, sent out a tweet with a picture of Feis which read: "Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took several bullets covering other students at Douglas," with another social media user writing: "This, ladies and gentlemen, [is] the face of a hero."
"Coach Aaron Feis was injured protecting a student in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and, at last report, is in critical condition. He is a friend to all students that know him. He was always so nice to me when I went to school there, and I know he is close with my brother and his friends."
Feis is not the first heroic teacher to have put his body on the line to protect his students. Each of the Virginia Tech shooting, Columbine High School massacre and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting saw a teacher give their life to ensure their students got out of horrifying the ordeal alive:
Virginia Tech Shooting: Liviu Librescu
The Virgina Tech shooting took place on April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, with Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shooting and killing 32 people, as well as injuring a further 17. At the time, it was the deadliest shooting carried out by a single gunman in U.S history.
The death toll would have no doubt been higher if it were not for the actions of Liviu Librescu, a holocaust survivor and teacher at the university who forcibly prevented Cho from entering his lecture hall in room 204. Although he was shot through the door, Librescu managed to prevent Cho from entering the classroom until most of his students had escaped through the windows.
He was struck by four bullets before the fifth hit him in the head and killed him. Due to his actions, out of the 23 students in his class, 22 managed to escape to safety. He was posthumously awarded the Order of the Star of Romania, the country's highest civilian honor.
Columbine High School massacre: Dave Sanders
The Columbine High School massacre occurred on April 20, 1999, was perpetrated by senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and led to the deaths of 12 students and one teacher, as well as the injury of 21 others.
As Harris and Klebold roamed around the school killing anyone in sight, computer and business teacher Dave Sanders had successfully evacuated students from the cafeteria. As Sanders and another student tried to secure as much of the school as they could, they encountered the shooters approaching them from the other end of the hallway. As they attempted to flee, Harris and Klebold shot at them both.
Sanders was hit twice, once in the neck and once in the back, but the student managed to escape the scene. He went on to warn a science classroom of 30 students of the approaching gunmen. Sanders died of his injuries before the intervening SWAT officers could get him medical care. He was the only teacher to die in the shooting.
Sandy Hook Elementary shooting: Victoria Leigh Soto
On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered the premises of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, and shot and killed 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members.
Amongst the dead staff members was then 27-year-old teacher Victoria Leigh Soto, who helped ensure that several of her students got out of the school alive that fateful day at the cost of her own life. Lanza had already killed fifteen students and two teachers in the first classroom before going for Soto's.
Soto had hidden several children in a closet and when Lanza entered her classroom, told him that the children were not there and that they were in the school gym. When several children ran out of their hiding places, Lanza began shooting at them, prompting Soto to throw herself in front of the first-graders in a bid to protect them. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for her bravery.
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