Seventeen students and teachers were killed on Wednesday in the second-deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school. Here are the stories of those who died.
Alyssa Alhadeff, 15
Alyssa loved soccer and creative writing, and “all she had to offer the world was love,” her mother, Lori Alhadeff, wrote in a Facebook post that was shared by a family friend Thursday.
In an interview with WSVN-TV, Alyssa’s grandmother Vicki Alhadeff said her granddaughter was popular and athletic, adding that she was a big soccer player and ran track. Alyssa was a member of the South Florida United Youth Soccer Association and played for the Parkland Soccer Club.
“Alyssa Alhadeff was a loved and well respected member of our club and community,” according to a post on the club’s Facebook page. “Alyssa will be greatly missed.”
In her Facebook post, Lori Alhadeff asked that Alyssa’s friends to honor her by never giving up and “doing something fabulous” in their lives.
“A knife is stabbed in my heart,” Lori Alhadeff wrote. “I wish I could of taken those bullets for you. I will always love you and your memory will live on forever.”
They thought it was a fire drill at first, so the students hurried out of the classroom, and geography teacher Scott Beigel locked the door behind them. Soon, they heard gunshots, and everyone was running back up the stairs, said Kelsey Friend, 16. As they ran, Kelsey was being shoved, and she told Beigel she was scared. The students heard more gunshots, and Beigel quickly unlocked the classroom door so the students could hide.
They all cowered by his desk, like they had practiced in drills, and Kelsey noticed that her teacher didn’t run in behind her. “Mr. Beigel is laying on the floor; he’s not moving,” her friend told her.
She texted her mother a series of messages: “My teacher is on the floor”; “It was a fire drill then everyone ran and heard shots then I ran into. Classroom I’m hiding”; “I love u mommy I love u so much.”
She prayed Beigel would be okay but soon realized he spent his last moments trying to save her and the other students now huddled and crying in the classroom.
As Kelsey left school yesterday, she saw Beigel’s body on the floor, as well as the bodies of two students, blood and thrown backpacks.
“He’s my Superman,” she said. “Superman saves lives, and that’s exactly what Mr. Beigel did.”
Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania, where Beigel also worked, called him a “beloved friend and hero” in a Facebook post.
Melissa Strauss, 20, of West Chester, New York., said Beigel was a “really big role model” in her life and taught her to be respectful and to “know who I truly am and to dig deep inside and figure out what I love to do.” Many others from Camp Starlight posted on Facebook about Beigel’s friendship, humor and mentorship.
Martin Duque, 14
Duque was a freshman at Douglas High School, according to the Miami Herald.
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Nicholas, a senior, was a competitive swimmer who planned to attend the University of Indianapolis in the fall on an athletic scholarship. “He was a vibrant, energetic, confident kid,” said Jason Hite, the university’s swim coach who had recruited Nick and saw him just last month during his official school visit. “He was just the kind of kid you’d want on your team.”
And Nick, who specialized in freestyle events, had his eyes on the future: He dreamed of swimming for the Swedish national team in future Olympics, in honor of his mother, Annika, who is Swedish. His mom works as a nurse in Florida. His dad is a real estate agent.
Nick’s younger brother attended the same high school and was injured in Wednesday’s attack, Hite said. He suffered a graze wound to his head.
Nick in recent years had buckled down in his studies and swimming, Hite said. And the hard work was just beginning to pay off when he was killed.
“Nick’s death is a reminder that we are connected to the larger world,” University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel said in a statement, “and when tragedy hits in places around the world, it oftentimes affects us at home.”
According to a short biography on the Douglas football team’s website, Aaron graduated from the school in 1999, where he played center on the team. 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. He had a wife and a daughter, according to the biography.
“He was a great guy,” Douglas sophomore lineman Gage Gaynor told the Orlando Sentinel. “Everyone loved him. Shame he had to go like this. Always gave his all to making us better. Definitely learned a lot from him.”
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Ethel Guttenberg described her granddaughter Jaime as fun, loving and beautiful. Jaime had been a dancer since she was a young girl, she said. “Since she was 2 years old. And loved every second of it,” Guttenberg said.
Jaime was in the ninth grade; her older brother was also at the school at the time of the shooting andt survived, Guttenberg said. “She was a lovely, giving, wonderful, wonderful young lady,” she said of Jaime. “She was a wonderful, good kid. Anybody who ever met her loved her. That’s the kind of person she was. Caring, open, always smiling.” Guttenberg remembered her granddaughter’s fun personality and said she was “just a very loving person.” “We have a history in our family of giving, of helping other people who just need help, no matter what,” she said, noting that Jaime took time to volunteer and tried to help others. Jaime’s father, Fred, posted about his daughter on Facebook after the shooting, writing that his heart is “broken.” “We will be getting messages out later regarding visitation,” he wrote at the end of the post. “Hugs to all and hold your children tight.”
Chris Hixon, 49
Hixon was the athletic director and wrestling coach at Douglas. His wife, Debra, leads South Broward High School’s magnet program, according to the Sun Sentinel. He had also worked at South Broward and while he was there was ordered to deploy to Iraq as part of the U.S. Naval Reserve, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Luke Hoyer, 15
Luke loved basketball — he was a fan of Clemson University’s team and played for a traveling team. He also was looking forward to joining the football team at Douglas High School in the fall. “He done growed like a weed over the summer,” said his grandmother, Janice Stroud, who last saw her grandson over Christmas.
The once-little boy was now about 6’2” and spent the time at his grandparent’s house in South Carolina playing basketball in their yard with his cousins. The kids played games, lovingly picked at one another and had a lot of fun over the holidays, said Stroud and her husband, John Eddie Stroud. He always seemed to be smiling.
“He was just a considerate, sweet young boy,” Janice Stroud said. “He was quiet, but he was just a great kid.”
Hoyer was the youngest of three children. His sister just graduated from college and his brother is a college student.
“He was just an all-American kid who didn’t deserve what he got,” John Eddie Stroud said through tears.
The couple will head to Florida to do the unthinkable: help their daughter bury her son.
“Our daughter, she’s just like any mother would be, just devastated,” Janice said. The couple said the family did not find out that Luke died until 1 a.m.
“When you see this stuff on TV you don’t realize what they’re going through until you go through it,” she said.
Cara was a freshman at Douglas High School. Her mother, Denise, was reunited with her 17-year-old son, Liam, within hours of the shooting, but they still hadn’t heard from Cara. On Thursday, the family confirmed that Cara was among those killed.
Gina was a strong and loving girl who “brightened any room she entered,” her family wrote in a post shared on social media. “Our beautiful daughter, Gina Rose, was taken from us during the tragedy. . .” her family wrote in the post.
The first time Gina babysat for neighbor Chalmers McCahill’s children she brought a colorful checklist to ask about the routine for her kids. She showed up early, asked if it was okay to do her homework once the kids went to bed and always kept in touch with McCahill. McCahill said that Gina had a “nurturing heart” and that her kids were always excited to see Gina.
“I just felt safe,” McCahill, 35, said about leaving her kids, Mason, 6, Drew, 5, and Claire, 1, with Gina. “This child who kept our children safe. . .”
“We were all fortunate to witness the most caring part of her and the blessing she became to us all,” she said.
Michelle Silverstone, 31, said one of Gina’s first babysitting jobs was for her daughter, who is now 8 years old. After Gina brought over a set of colored pencils for coloring, all Silverstone’s daughter wanted was the same colored pencil set. And after knowing that Gina did the Color Guard, Silverstone’s daughter wanted to do it, too.
“She’s just such a good girl,” Silverstone said. “She’s what I would aspire my daughter to be like.”
McCahill told her children Thursday before they went to school, that Gina is “now a beautiful angel.” Mason asked if “Miss. Gina” went to heaven and she said “yes, buddy.”
Alaina Petty, 14
Alaina was just a freshman, but she was already driven to serve her community, according to a statement released by her family through their church. She participated in her school’s Junior ROTC program and volunteered at her family’s chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Meadow Pollack, 18
Like many seniors, Meadow was looking forward to graduation. She planned to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., said longtime friend Amanda Perez. Meadow had not decided on a major, but Amanda said she was eager to graduate.
“She was ready to get out of high school. I think we all can relate to that,” she said.
However, Meadow was not ready to part from her family and boyfriend, and she chose a university close to home, Amanda said. She added that Meadow and her mother were close friends. Meadow was someone a friend could always count on, with a positive nature and the ability to make the best out of any situation, Amanda said.
“She always listened, and she always told you things that you needed to hear, not things you wanted to hear,” she said. “She wouldn’t sugar-coat things.”
Amanda said it is hard to believe that she won’t get to talk to or see her best friend again. But, if she could, words would not be the first thing on her mind.
“I don’t think I’d say anything, I’d just hug her,” she said.
Alex Schachter, 14
Alex played the trombone in the marching band, and his favorite song was Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” said his father, Max Schachter. Alex’s older brother survived the shooting at Douglas High School. His mother died when Alex was 5 years old. His father later remarried, and “that’s how Alex got two sisters,” he said. Max Schachter paused to cry every few words and then said he didn’t want to talk anymore.
He previously told the New York Times that Alex was “a sweetheart of a kid” and “just wanted to do well and make his parents happy.”
Carmen was a senior at Douglas High School and a National Merit Scholarship finalist.
Peter Wang, 15
Amid chaos and students fleeing, Peter did not run. Instead, he held the door open and helped his peers escape, his cousin Aaron Chen told the Miami Herald. Peter, who was a member of the school’s ROTC, wore his gray uniform to school that day.
“He wasn’t supposed to die,” Chen said in an interview with First Coast News. “He was supposed to grow old with me.”
Mandy Sheridan, a neighbor, wrote in a Facebook post that her “heart is shattered” for Peter and his family. “Please take a moment and honor this child who was taken from his family,” she wrote. “His name is Peter Wang. He did nothing but go to school yesterday.”
The Washington Post’s Allyson Chiu, Todd Frankel, Matt Bonesteel, Cindy Boren, Katie Zezima, Lori Rozsa, Sarah Larimer and Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.