It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis. He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories pic.twitter.com/O181FvuHl3— MS Douglas Football (@MSDEagles) February 15, 2018
On paper, Aaron Feis was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s football coach and security guard. But to both staff and students at the Florida high school, he was much more than that.
A proud alumnus himself, Feis unfortunately made the news for the most tragic of reasons: He was one of the 17 people shot to death by Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday. Yet despite being a victim, Feis did not go down without fighting to protect those he loved the most.
According to witnesses, NBC reports, as soon as the first gunshots were heard, Feis draped himself over students, and because of that, student Julien Decoste said, “[h]e took the bullets himself.”
Decoste survived by hiding in a closet along with other students. But watching Feis do what he did to save as many lives as possible is an image the student said he will never forget.
“As I was being escorted out of the building, I had to step over him," he said. "Right then and there ... I knew: He had to have been dead or injured."
While he confirmed that Feis was one of the victims, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel could not comment on Decoste’s statement. However, he added that he knew Feis personally and that the entire community will feel this loss.
“I know Aaron personally," Israel said in a press conference Thursday. "I coached with him, my two boys played for him. I don't know when Aaron's funeral is, I don't know how many adults will go, but you'll get 2,000 kids there. The kids in this community loved him. They adored him. He was one of the greatest people I knew. He was a phenomenal man."
On Twitter, many users who knew the heroic coach shared their stories.
No more coach Feis riding that golf cart every morning and monitoring the senior parking lot...— Max (@JeanMax_Jr) February 15, 2018
I will miss seeing him every morning as I take my kids to school.
He was a good ME!N!— Max (@JeanMax_Jr) February 15, 2018
My son woke up this morning and said "no matter what dad. You Can always go to coach Feis"
This thing hits differently when its faces of kids and adults that you recognize at both ends
My wife went to Douglass and sees this coach everyday at Dunkin Donuts every morning m. She broke down crying when she thought he died. She says he is one of the most good hearted person she has ever met.— Mr.mpk (@M_PorterKnowles) February 15, 2018
Others urged news outlets to celebrate and elevate people like Feis, not the killer.
Coach Aaron Feis. The name we should be hearing on tv and on reading online. Not that of the cowardly ?? killer. Feis put his life on the line to save others. https://t.co/DV7VgTY1he— Tyler Mauldin (@TyTheWeatherGuy) February 15, 2018
Amazing, selfless act during another unspeakable tragedy. https://t.co/NpAh3wkRo1— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) February 15, 2018
According to Johanna Mahaffey, Feis’ sister, her brother was a pillar of the community who would do anything to protect the kids. The fact he jumped between the bullets and the kids was just who he was, she added.
“He is a protector, a coach, and an educator," she told NBC.
As the news regarding the former student behind this massacre pours in, let us remember that for every act of cruelty and cowardice, a hero like Feis steps up and does the unthinkable to save lives.
These are the individuals we are celebrating today and will strive to be like tomorrow, if we’re ever put in similar situations.