Mourning the 24 victims of school shootings in the last 10 weeks

There have been 12 school shootings this year, according to CNN. When I first read this, I paused before I realized what the article was saying. No, that's not 12 school shootings within the last 12 months. That's 12 school shootings in 2018! 12 school shootings in less than 10 weeks!

The latest shooting occurred close to home. In Mount Pleasant, 69 miles north of where I live, to be exact. Central Michigan University student James Eric Davis Jr. allegedly shot his parents to death when they came to pick him up from his dorm for spring break.

And, of course, there was the most deadly school shooting this year in Parkland, Florida — where authorities say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and adults at his former high school.

A school should be one of the safest places you can go. A place to learn and the first step on a young person's journey to figuring out their dreams and striving towards them. But, because of these shootings, 14 teens in Florida, a 20-year-old in Georgia, two 15-year-olds in Kentucky, and a 21-year-old in North Carolina won't get to see what their futures hold.

The truth is: I've been putting off writing about this, although I knew this was a topic that I needed to address. With all the times I've pathetically cried over fictional characters' deaths, these were REAL-LIFE people with REAL-LIFE stories and REAL-LIFE families. These people actually deserve my tears.

Today, I looked at the pictures of all the people who were killed and I took the time to think about each one of them. I read each one of their stories and looked at their smiling faces in their photographs —  faces that their family and friends will never get to see again. I thought about what their final moments must have been like. About how, with the shot of a gun, their futures were stolen away from them.

The numbers we read in headlines —17 killed, two shot to death, etc. — aren't just numbers. They are individual people. So, instead of focusing on politics (which I'm sure you're sick of seeing on your social media newsfeeds by now), I want to take a moment to mourn and honor the lives of each human being who has died in the last 10 weeks:

James Eric Davis Sr. and Diva Davis

James was a part-time police officer in Bellwood, Ill. since 1999 and Diva had just beaten stage 4 breast cancer. Jordan Murphy, who worked with James, described the couple as "loving, ever present parents, who doted on their children" and would do anything to protect them. Their son Russell said, "I LOVE my Mama/Ma/MaDea and my Dad!! I’m going to MISS THEM!!"

Kaleel Clarke

Kaleel's  nickname was "Smiley" and, despite the fact that he battled a cancer-like chronic illness since 2011, he was happy and tried to live live like a normal 20-year-old. His mother Madiha told WTOC, "I'm going to miss him forever. ... Kaleel is a good person. He needed to be able to live a very long time, and if God didn't take him through the sickness, nobody else should've taken him from this earth either."

Aaron Feis

Aaron, 37, assistant football coach at Stoneman Douglas High School, threw himself in the path of the gunfire, in front of students, to protect them, CNN reports. Junior Colton Haab told CNN, "(He) made sure everyone else's needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible." Another student,  Chad Lyons, told CNN that Aaron was there for him when he was going through leukemia treatments. "He was just an amazing person to be led on and taught by, and I'm thankful enough to even be in his presence, just going through high school."

Peter Wang

Peter, 15, dreamed of being a solider, NBC News reports. He died trying to help students escape, and, because of his heroism, he was posthumously accepted into U.S. Military Academy at West Point and buried in his Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps uniform. His friend Xi Chen told NBC, “He was like a brother to me and possibly one of the kindest people I ever met."

Carmen Schentrup

Carmen, 16, would have turned 17 the week after her death. But now, she will forever be 16. She was also a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, but she didn't know that because the letter arrived the day after the shooting, CNN reports. Fellow student Ariana Ortega said of Carmen, "She was going to change the world, and I'm sure of that. But she doesn't have the chance now."

Alyssa Alhadeff

Alyssa, 14, a student at Stoneman Douglas High School, was a member of the Parkland Travel Soccer Team and attended Camp Coleman each year. Her mother Lori said that Alyssa was smart and an incredibly creative writer with an amazing personality. "All she had to offer the world was love. ... I wish I could have taken those bullets for you. I will always love you and your memory will live on forever," she said. Alyssa's friend and fellow soccer player Madison Ciccone told the Sun Sentinel, "She was always so sweet and whenever (people) were around her, everyone was laughing. She was such a light to be around."

Jaime Guttenberg

The father of 14-year-old Jaime wrote an article for Marie Claire after her death.  "Jaime was a unique person. She was tough as nails. She was not somebody who put up with B.S. She didn’t get caught up in the typical middle school/high school nonsense. She was a 14-year-old girl who put her time and effort into defending those that others wouldn’t. As a mere 10-year-old, she would often hang out with her neighbor who had asperger syndrome. She would always be a friend to her. That’s just who she is, it always has been," wrote Fred Guttenberg. He said that she had her whole life figured out — she wanted to be a pediatric physical therapist at The Paley Institute and help kids with limb deformities. "In Jaime’s name, I am dedicating the rest of my life to fighting to end gun violence," said Fred. "I just can’t let it happen to another parent. I can’t."

Scott Beigel

CNN reports that Scott, 35, was a geography teacher, a cross-country coach, and was in the midst of planning his wedding to his girlfriend Gwen Gossler, who he met seven years ago when they were both counselors at Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania. He died outside of his classroom door as he tried to usher students back inside. Kelsey Friend says that Scott saved her life. She told CNN, "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. ... I am alive today because of him."

Nicholas Dworet

If Nicholas, 17, hadn't died, he would be going to the University of Indianapolis in the fall, where he was recruited to be on the swim team. According to a statement from the Dworet family to People Magazine,  "He dreamed of making the Olympic swim team and going to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. He believed he could accomplish anything as long as he tried his best. ... He was a happy, young man full of life and joy. He was extremely excited to have met the love of his life. He loved his friends and family with all of his heart."

Martin Duque

Martin, 14, was a freshman at Stoneman. His older brother Miguel said, "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."

Chris Hixon

Chris, 49, Stoneman Douglas High School Athletic Director, was also a Navy vet with 27 years of service.  Navy Times reports that Archbishop Thomas Wenski said at Chris' funeral, “He was not a celebrity, but he was a hero and a role model. ... And he was a hero long before last Wednesday. He served his country, there was his devotion to his family and the care of his students. We weep and the Hixon family grieves. We grieve with them.”

Luke Hoyer

Luke, 15, loved basketball and chicken nuggets, the Miami Herald reports. His mother, Gena, said
that their last exchange before he left for school that morning was when he found a Valentine's Day card and a box of his favorite chocolates from her by the bathroom sink. He told her thank you and, when Gena dropped him off at school, she told him, "I love you, Lukey Bear," and he responded, "I love you too, Mom."

Gina Montalto

Gina, 14, volunteered as a friend for kids with special needs and was on the color guard squad, CBS News reports. Her parents Anthony and Jennifer said, "Gina was a special girl who melted every heart with her infectious smile that lit up a room. She was instant friends with everyone she met. She had a great sense of humor, and always made people laugh. She was a kind spirit, always eager to lend a helping hand."

Cara Loughran

Cara, 14, was a student at Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida, and co-workers from Cara's weekend job at JcPenney described her as "a wonderful kid with big dreams" who loved gymnastics, surfing and dancing. Her aunt Lindsay Fontana wrote on Facebook, "We are absolutely gutted. Cara was 14 years old. She was an excellent student, she loved the beach and she loved our girls."

Joaquin Oliver

Joaquin, 17, was born in Venezuela, the Sun Sentinel reports, and became a naturalized American citizen just one year ago. Among his friends, he was nicknamed "Guac" and his interests were
football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti and hip-hop. His friend Sam Bailin told the Sentinel, “He was the most optimistic kid I’ve ever met. You’d see in him the hallways and he was always saying hi to everyone. He cared about everyone else. He was just a great kid. You always felt his energy when he was around.”

Alaina Petty

The Church of Latter Day Saints wrote in their news bulletin that Alaina, 14, was devoted to her friends, family and faith and thought of others before herself. More than 1,500 attended her funeral at Coral Springs Florida Stake Center. Her father Ryan said of his youngest child, “Alaina was an amazing young lady. A sweet little angel who wanted to be your friend. ... She was a determined girl, but she was never judgmental. She knew right from wrong but never made you feel like she was judging you for your choices.”

Meadow Pollack

Meadow, 18, was planning to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton, where she had just been accepted. The university spokeswoman Jamie D'Aria told CNN, "Meadow was a lovely young woman, who was full of energy. We were very much looking forward to having her join our community in the fall." Rabbi Brad Boxman, who presided over her funeral, called her a star with a smile like sunshine.

Helena Ramsay

Helena, 17, was known as a smart, kind-hearted, thoughtful, and genuine person with a bright future ahead of her. According to ABC News, her relative Curtis Page Jr. said, "She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was some what reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her. ... She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone."

Alex Schachter

CNN shared this poem that Alex, 14, wrote only two weeks before to his death: Life is like a roller coaster
it has some ups and downs
Sometimes you can take it slow or very fast
It may be hard to breath at times
but you have to push yourself and keep going
Your bar is your safety
it's like your family and friends
You hold on tight and you don't let go
But sometimes you might throw your hands up
Because your friends and family will always be with you
Just like that bar keeping you safe at all times
It may be too much for you at times — the twists, the turns, the upside downs
But you get back up
you keep chugging along
eventually it comes to a stop
you won't know when or how
but you will know that'll be time to get off and start anew
Life is like a roller coaster

Ralph Kennedy

On Jan. 31, Ralph, 32, was shot and killed in the parking lot of Lincoln High School in Philadelphia. ABC 6 Action News reports that Ralph was the father of eight children with two more on the way. Ralph's mother Sirod Geraldine Bordley said, "He had no enemies."

Bailey Holt

Bailey, 15, died at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky. on Jan. 23. Right before she died, she called her mom. Her mother, Secret, told CNN, "She couldn't say anything, and I tried to call her name over and over and over, and she never responded." Bailey had planned to grow up to be a labor and delivery nurse. Her father Jason said, "She was perfect in every way. ... She was an angel here on earth. She was a perfect angel."

Preston Cope

Preston, 15, was also a victim of the school shooting at Marshall. He died at the hospital, and the Lexington Herald Leader reports that his parents were able to say good-bye to him, speeding to be there with him as he was put on the stretcher. In a statement, his family said, “Preston loved everyone. ... He was caring, compassionate, and had the biggest heart. He loved life. He loved his family."

Najee Ali Baker

Najee, 21,  was shot to death at a campus party at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He transferred to the university in March 2017 and was the walk-on defensive lineman for the football team. His high school alma mater said in a statement to NBC New York, "He was a tremendous teammate, a role model and a great person. He will be missed. Our hearts go out to his family. He will never be forgotten for the leadership and legacy he left behind."

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