COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - The school shooting in Florida hit especially close to the heart of a North Shore youth minister who lost a dear friend. The minister went to the school and knew the coach who reportedly laid down his life to try and protect others.
Seventeen people were killed last week at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FLA. And though that school is 1,000 miles away, the tragedy hits very close to home for a youth minister in Covington.
"When I first told my wife, she said 'Douglas? you must be joking,'" said Covington Covenant church youth minister Joe Richardson.
"It is a beautiful city, it's one of the safest places you would ever send one of your children," said Richardson, who graduated from Douglas 18 years ago.
"We live in an evil world, and there's evil people out there. If any school went above and beyond, it would have been Stoneman Douglas," said Richardson.
Aaron Feis, Richardson's close friend and former teammate at Douglas, died after witnesses say he placed himself in the line of fire to protect others.
"Knowing his relationship with teens, and as a coach, I can easily see him knowing kids had been shot at, trying to protect them no matter what the cost to him," said Richardson.
Richardson says he recently visited Feis at the school, where he said security precautions had gotten tighter in recent years.
"He was the light of the room. I played football for three years, he would always make the funny joke," said
He says he's not surprised, that surviving students are now speaking passionately about changing weaknesses in school safety in memory of lost friends. And Richardson says he will forever miss a former teammate who tried to make a difference at a school they both loved.
"With Aaron, you wouldn't think a man like that could be gone like that. He stepped in the line of fire for his children," said Richardson.
He is confident that something will change this time around given the outpouring from Parkland students and their commitment to try and change things.
Joe Richardson says he and the students of Covenant Church will hold a memorial for Feis this weekend.
Feis was 37 and leaves behind a young daughter.