A football coach using his body as a shield, a teacher stuffing 19 students into a closet and a janitor’s warning saved countless lives during a deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.
Survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre are continuing to mourn the loss of 17 victims – both students and faculty – though many believe that number could have been higher.
Thanks to a handful of heroes, some of whom lost their lives, students say they were able to escape the shooting unharmed. Here are their stories.
Student shot five times protecting classmates
Sheriff Scott Israel on Sunday paid a visit to 15-year-old school shooting survivor, Anthony Borges. (The Broward County Sheriff’s Office)
When bullets started flying, students panicked. They weren’t sure what to do. So, 15-year-old Anthony Borges took charge.
Borges ran alongside a group of students toward an open classroom. He was the last to enter and paused to lock the door. That’s when he was hit five times in the legs and back.
“None of us knew what to do. So, he took the initiative to just save his other classmates,” Carlos, Borges’ best friend, told “Good Morning America.”
Despite the bullet wounds, Borges stood his ground. He used his body to shield his classmates as he secured the door.
“He’s my hero,” Borges’ dad, Royer, told “Good Morning America.”
Borges is currently recovering at Broward Health, where he has received plenty of visitors, including Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
Football coach “died a hero,” using body as a shield
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, was hailed a hero for saving students during the mass shooting on Feb. 14. (Facebook)
When gunfire rang out in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, football coach and security guard Aaron Feis immediately went to work.
Feis responded to the original call on a school walkie-talkie, according to the Sun Sentinel. Someone on the radio asked if loud sounds they heard were firecrackers, football coach Willis May said.
“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May said.
Witnesses say the coach shielded students from gunfire and shoved them through open doors and out of harm’s away.
Feis was the first shooting victim to be identified. The football team revealed his death in a tweet early Thursday morning.
“It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis,” the team wrote. “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.”
Teacher hides 19 students in a closet
When Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, learned there was an active shooter inside the building, she told all of her students to get down.
As she surveyed the students in the room, huddled in a corner, she decided to take an extra step to protect them.
The teacher instructed the students to get into a closet.
“I managed to put 19 kids in the closet with me,” Falkowski told CNN on Thursday. “This is the worst nightmare that could ever happen to you.”
Falkowski and the group of students stood silently in the closet, waiting for authorities to give them the “all-clear.” About 30 minutes later, they were escorted out by a SWAT team.
“Melissa Falkowski is an amazing educator who deserves praise for what she did. I had multiple panic attacks while locked in the closet with 19 other people for numerous hours,” Emma Dowd told blogging site Love What Matters. “She reiterated many times that I would be safe and she won’t let anything happen to me.”
In a tweet, Dowd added she was “beyond thankful” for educators like Falkowski.
Teacher unlocks, blocks door so students can hide
Students said geography teacher Scott Beigel unlocked his classroom to help them avoid the gunman, and he paid for the brave act with his life.
“If the shooter would have come into the room, I probably wouldn’t be speaking to you now,” student Kelsey Friend told Good Morning America.
When Friend heard gunshots, she followed other students who were sprinting toward the classroom.
Beigel “unlocked the door and let us in,” she explained. “I thought he was behind me, but he wasn’t. When he opened the door he had to relock it so we could stay safe, but he didn’t get a chance to.”
Student Bruna Oliveda said she saw Beigel blocking the door.
“I don’t know how we’re alive,” she said.
Teacher covers window with paper, refuses to open classroom door
Shanthi Viswanathan, known by students as “Mrs. V.,” is being praised for her quick-thinking actions during the shooting.
Viswanathan made sure the students in her class were hidden. She led them to a corner and covered the classroom window with a large piece of paper.
“She was quick on her feet. She used her knowledge,” Dawn Jarboe, whose son was in the room, told the Orlando Sentinel. “She saved a lot of kids.”
Viswanathan kept the kids calm and quiet until help arrived. When SWAT officers pounded on the classroom door, Viswanathan refused to open it.
She wanted to ensure she wasn’t being tricked by the shooter.
“She said, ‘Knock it down or open it with a key. I’m not opening the door,’” Jarboe said.
Minutes later, officers knocked out thew window and rescued the group.
Janitor diverts students from the gunman
High school senior David Hogg was running toward an exit with a group of students as gunfire rang out when he was suddenly stopped by a janitor.
The janitor, who Hogg couldn’t identify, motioned for the students to head the other direction.
“After I started running with the people, I realized that wasn’t the best choice because there was a janitor that thank God stopped me and all of my fellow students from going in that direction – towards the shooter,” Hogg told KTRK.
Hogg and his classmates reversed course, searching for a place to hide. A teacher quickly opened the door to her classroom and pulled the students inside.
“Without her, who knows how many of us would have died, ’cause we were easily 100 feet away from the freshman building, and again, we thought this was a drill,” Hogg said.
ROTC student holds door so others can escape
An ROTC member, Peter Wang reportedly held a door open to usher his peers to safety during the shooting. (Facebook)
Peter Wang, a ROTC student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wasn’t interested in status but wanted to help others, relatives said.
Wang’s cousin, Aaron Chen, told the Miami Herald the 15-year-old was last seen in his uniform, holding a door open so others could escape the gunfire.
Friends and relatives first thought Wang was just missing and checked with area hospitals. They later found out he had been killed.
The Parkland community is now petitioning the government to give a full honors military funeral to the slain junior Cadet student who helped students flee danger during the shooting.
“His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area,” the petition reads. “Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.