More than just Another Face: Parkland Students and their Stories

Last week, Central Catholic High School hosted a walkout in remembrance of the 17 lives lost several weeks ago and to call students in our community to action.

This is not the first school shooting. These student’s faces were not the first ones to be playing in a slideshow. Their mothers were not the first to cry out, because no parent should ever have to experience this horror. The survivors are making excellent headway in regards to gun reform. While not everyone may agree with their message, what’s important is that the survivors are speaking out for tangible change. In a big way. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about what the words of these survivors mean for students like myself. However, I truly believe that in order to understand the message of these survivors, we must begin to understand the lives that were lost. Below, I detailed the information about the 14 students and 3 teachers that were lost on February 14, 2018.

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Alyssa played soccer for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as Parkland Travel Soccer. When she left for school the morning of the 14th, she left behind A mom, a dad, two little brothers, a soccer team, a desk, a box of nail polish, cleats, a silver dress she wore on her bat mitzvah. The talented soccer player had been playing soccer since she was three, and the night before she played as her mother called, “the best game of her life.”

 

Scott Beigel, 35

Beigel was a geography teacher who was shoot ushering students into his classroom. Kelsey Friend was one of the students the teacher saved. She states, “Mr. Beigel was my hero and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom,” she said. “I am alive today because of him.” Not only was he a teacher, but he was also a cross country coach and was soon to be married. He met his girlfriend, Gwen Gossler, of about seven years while a counselor at Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania.

 

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Martin has an older brother, a graduate of Douglass. He states, “He was a very funny kid, outgoing and sometimes really quiet. He was sweet and caring and loved by all his family. Most of all he was my baby brother. My family and I have no words to describe the event that has happened on this date, all my prayers to the lost ones.” Martin’s family set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses, he was only a freshman.

 

Nicholas Dworet, 17

Nicholas Dworet was a 17 year old senior and a competitive swimmer. He was excited to attend University of Indianapolis in the fall and be a part of their swim team. He dreamed of swimming for the Swedish national team in the Olympics, in honor of his mother, Annika, who is Swedish. His family said in a statement, “He believed he could accomplish anything as long as he tried his best.” His brother, Alexander Dworet was also injured in the shooting when a bullet grazed his head. They were in difference classroom.

 

Aaron Feis, 37

Aaron Feis, the assistant football coach, was killed when he threw himself in front of students to protect them from oncoming bullets. Feis graduated in 1999 from Stoneman Douglas High School. He returned to Douglas in 2002 and became head coach of the junior varsity team. He later coached the linemen for the jv and varsity teams and coordinated the players’ college recruitment. Feis’s students describe him as a selfless man who always cared for others before himself.

 

Jaime Guttenberg, 14

Jaime had dreams of becoming a pediatric physical therapist in Boca Raton, at the Paley Institute. In addition to being a part of the Best Buddies, a program that creates friendships for people living with disabilities, Jamie was also a passionate dancer. Her father states, ““My heart is broken.I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this. We appreciate all of the calls and messages and we apologize for not reacting to everyone individually,” he added. “Hugs to all and hold your children tight.”

 

Chris Hixon, 49

Chris was often seen helping out students in any way could. He would give them lunch money and even open up his home to then. He gave everything he had to the students until the day he died. He was the school’s athletic director and wrestling coach, a big passion for him. Prior to coming to Stoneman Douglas, he was deployed to Iraq in 2007. His widow states, “He loved being an American and serving his country and he instilled that in our kids.” Several of the wrestling team members spoke to his character after his death. Karlos Valentin, a senior heavyweight on the team says, “Coach Hixon, for me, was a father figure.”

 

Luke Hoyer, 15

Luke was a freshman at the school. He loved playing basketball and eating McDonald Chicken Nuggets and Mac ‘n Cheese. His older brother is in college, and his sister recently moved to Denver, he was described as a “momma’s boy.” Two of his close friends told his parents, Gena and Tom Hoyer, that they found him laying lifeless on the ground of the third floor of the school. “The day went by and we didn’t hear anything about Luke. We kept hoping they would find him wandering around in shock,” his aunt told CNN. She also says, “He was always smiling and very laid back. He never caused any trouble. He was just a good boy and had a great life.”

 

Cara Loughran, 14

Cara danced at the Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida. Her studio said in a statement, “Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face. We are heartbroken as we send our love and support to her family during this horrible time.” She was a freshman at Stoneman Douglas High School and loved going to the beach. In addition, she also like the Baltimore Ravens’ Alex Collins who had studied at the same school of Irish dance as Cara. The football player tweeted in recognition of her death and the horrible tragedy that occured. Her brother, a senior at Stoneman Douglas had waited outside of the school that day, hoping that his sister would return, but she never did.

 

Gina Montalto, 14

Gina was a member of the winter guard on the school’s marching band. She also volunteer with children who had special needs. Her middle school color guard instructor describes her as “the sweetest kid.” Also, she was a girl scout and an active member of her church. This is only a fraction of what Gina was involved in, since her kindless stretched across her community.  Her aunt says, “I know somewhere in the heavens she’s designing the latest and greatest trends and has her art book she always carried with her as well.” Her family started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for children to receive a secondary education in Gina’s memory. Currently they have raised over $400,000. On the page her parents state, “Gina will be missed not only by her family, but by everyone whose life she touched.”

 

Joaquin Oliver, 17

According to the Sun-Sentinel, Joaquin was born in Venezuela, moved to the United States when he was 3 and became a naturalized citizen in January 2017. He enjoyed football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti, and hip-hop. At Stoneman Douglas, many of his friends called him “Guac.” In an interview, Joaquin’s dad said that how excited the teen was when Dwyane Wade had re-signed with the Heat. “Dad, guess who’s coming back? Guess who’s coming home? Wade is coming back. I need that jersey!” He never got his jersey. He died before he could ever receive it. As a tribute to their son’s favorite player, they buried him in Wade’s jersey. Touched by this news, Wade dedicated the rest of the season to him.

 

Alaina Petty, 14

Alaina was a freshman at Stoneman Douglas and is described as a very generous person. She had volunteered to help after Hurricane Irma, was a part of the “Helping Hands” program at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was a member of junior ROTC at her school. She was so loved that more than 1,500 friends, classmates, and loved ones showed up to her funeral on February 19th at the Coral Springs Florida Stake Center. Alaina was the youngest of four in her family and is described as the “anchor” of this loving family. She was awarded the JROTC Heroism Medal at her funeral service. In a statement the parents said that they had “no anger” towards to man that had killed their daughter. “While we will not have the opportunity to watch her grow up and become the amazing woman we know she would become, we are keeping an eternal perspective,” her family said.

 

Meadow Pollack, 18

The senior at Stoneman Douglas High School had been accepted to Lynn University in Boca Raton, where she was planning to attend in the fall. In a series of tweets, Meadow acknowledged how excited she was to graduate and begin a new life. She is described as a girl who loved her family and friends. In 2015 the teen wrote about her grandmother, Evelyn Silverberg Pollack, “Nothing makes me happier than my grandma and her smile.” During her funeral in front of hundreds her father said, “This is just unimaginable to think I will never see my princess again.” The Rabbi who presided over her funeral described her as having “a smile like sunshine.” A GoFundMe page had been created in Meadow’s memory has raised over $112,000. On the page her family says, “She was a beautiful, warm, loving and intelligent soul whose sense of humor and loyalty to friends made her beloved by all who knew her.”

 

Helena Ramsay, 17

When the gunman began open firing at Stoneman Douglas High School, Helena and her friend, Samantha Grady, hid behind a bookshelf. The two best friends were in a Holocaust class on the first floor of the high school. Helena told Samantha to “Grab a book. Grab a book,” in order to try and shield herself. It was enough to save Samantha, who hid behind the books and was injured in the shooting. Helena was killed. She was described as “joyful” and having an “endearing smile.” “She was a really good person through and through. She was just great,” said Katherine, a 17-year-old junior at Douglas High. “One of the kindest people I’ve ever met.” Helena also really enjoyed music and was a big fan of Lana Del Rey, and had even attended her concert earlier that month. Her teacher wrote in a statement, “I’d make terrible dad jokes in class she would just give me this look and then laugh at me.”

 

Alex Schachter, 14

Alex was a freshman at Stoneman Douglas who had a brother, and two step-sisters. During the summers, Alex attended Eagles Landing Camp with his friends. He had so much fun hanging out with his friends, playing Nerf basketball in their dorm room and trading FatHeads. His father states in Alex’s eulogy, “He made me buy so many FatHeads — I think Eagles Landing Camp kept that company in business.” Alex played the baritone during marching band season and the trombone in concert season. Adressering Alex’s friends at school his dad says, “I am sorry you won’t be able to drink my smoothies with Alex anymore, but you can still come over anytime and we will make one together in his honor.

 

Carmen Shentrup, 17

Carmen was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and she was one of ten students who qualified. Also, she was an amazing piano player. Her father says, “I always enjoyed her piano playing. She picked the good songs, and she played them well.” She was also well-loved by her older brother, who said in a statement, “I learned that people had been killed and it was shaping up to be, at least, Columbine-level in terms of how many people were killed. I saw videos from inside, showing death and destruction. As the hours wore on I still held hope.Carmen was a smart girl. She was ranked in top 20 of her class.” In a tweet a student said, ““Rest In Peace Carmen Schentrup,” one tweet said. “You family is forever in my thoughts and prayers. I’m so sorry.”

 

Peter Wang, 15

Peter, a freshman, was killed while helping other students escape the school. The junior ROTC member aspired to be a part of the U.S. Military Academy. He would have been the class of 2025. For his heroic action on the day of this death, Peter was admitted to the West Point Academy and he was also buried in his junior ROTC uniform. Peter was one of three junior ROTC who were killed on February 14th. His parents owned a restaurant in West-Palm Beach and were devastated when they heard the news of his death. Kelsey Friend, who shared a culinary class with Peter, said she “started screaming and crying” when she found out about her friend’s death by looking at images on Google of those who had died.

 

When researching all of these students I read pages of kind words said about them by their friends and family. Each of these students had their own story beyond the paragraph I wrote about them. They had hopes and dreams. They were someone’s child. They were someone’s friend. Their story extends beyond the one that wrote into the lives of their teachers, friends, and family. No words can describe this immense loss. However, they were not the first students loss. The people of Orlando, the children of Columbine and Sandy Hook, each had their own stories as well. And those people also only represent a fraction of the people lost to gun violence every year.

I see my sister in Alaina Petty through her kind smile and willingness to help others. I see my best friend in Meadow Pollack in how much she cared for others and liked music. I see myself in Gina Montalto in how she loved Harry Potter and had a strong connection to her family. I can’t imagine losing the ones closest to me, so my heart goes out to the families and friends that lost the people closest to them.

This is not the last school shooting. More faces will appear on our television during newshour. More mothers will bury their sons or daughters. What are we going to do to end this tragic cycle of death and loss? How can we end this violence?

 

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