As the nation grapples with yesterday’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, stories of heroism have already emerged — stories that offer a ray of hope for a grieving community and for all of us.
One of those stories concerns assistant football coach Aaron Feis.
Coach Feis, who also served as a security guard at the school, used his own body to shield others from the hail of gunfire coming from an expelled former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.
“He was in his golf cart,” said student Colton Haab on Fox News this morning. “And I heard from a friend of mine. He was a big man. And he sprinted with everything he had toward it to make sure everybody was safe. And I heard that he got in front of a couple people and shielded them. He actually took the bullets for them … He didn’t make it. But he saved their lives for sure.”
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” said Denise Lehtio, a spokesperson for the school’s football program. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
Feis suffered a gunshot wound and later died after he was rushed into surgery, Lehtio also said, as CNN reported.
Last night at about 9 p.m., Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel delivered the somber news to the nation during a press conference: “A beloved football coach is dead.”
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Earlier in the day, the community was hopeful that Feis, who was himself a 1999 Douglas graduate and who dedicated his entire career to working at the school, would ultimately survive his injuries, the Miami Herald reported.
Reaction to the announcement of this hero’s death on the school football program’s Twitter account was heartfelt and touching.
Stories of heroism and courage from those like Coach Feis are much more than stories. They are lifelines for so many who are struggling today to cope with the fallout of yesterday’s horror. They remind us that in the face of the most dark and dire circumstances imaginable, selfless heroes will bravely rise to the occasion to confront it head-on.
Coach Feis was one of them. May he rest in peace.
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Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.