In the shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 17 people lost their lives.
Two of those who were killed were beloved coaches. Aaron Feis was an assistant football coach and security guard at the school, while Chris Hixon was the athletic director and wrestling coach.
Douglas head football coach Willis May Jr. told All Things Considered that he last saw Feis and Hixon when they were speeding toward the scene in a golf cart to see if they could help.
“Their job is when we have an altercation or a fight or anything, they’re on their golf carts and they’re there immediately and they are dealing with the situation,” he said.
Feis graduated from Douglas in 1999, and had been an assistant football coach at the school since 2002, the Sun-Sentinel reported. He’d worked as a security guard at the school for at least eight years.
May said that he heard from students that Feis was shot while protecting a female student from the incoming gunfire. He said he’s not surprised that Feis died trying to shield the kids: “That’s what he did.”
Hixon was also fatally shot after he raced to the scene to help students, May said.
“If we have a fight in school they’re first there. Taking care of it. They did that every day,” May added.
Feis “was a great guy,” sophomore Douglas lineman Gage Gaynor told the newspaper. “Everyone loved him. Shame he had to go like this. Always gave his all to making us better. Definitely learned a lot from him.”
“[He] made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own,” Colton Haab, a junior on the football team, told CNN. “He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible.”
And the community also mourning Hixon, the athletic director. Between his two roles, Hixon had a lot to juggle, said May — but he relished the work.
“It’s hard to be AD and a coach but he did it because he just loved it so much,” May said. He loved being with the students — “he’d get out there and wrestle with them.” He said Hixon had a great sense of humor, was very proud of his military background, and loved his family.
Other colleagues shared similar memories of Hixon.
“Chris is such a great guy,” Coral Springs High School athletic director and wrestling coach Dan Jacob told the Sun-Sentinal. “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.”
Last year, Hixon was named Broward County Athletic Association’s Athletic Director of the year, the newspaper reports.
Jason Stein, athletic director at neighboring Taravella High School, told the Sun-Sentinal that Hixon was survived by his wife and a son with special needs.
“It is devastating,” Stein told the newspaper. “His son was with him everywhere. Chris epitomized what an athletic director was all about.”
Feis and Hixon, May said, are “just great men. … Everybody trusted them. Everybody knew they were protecting them and had their back.”