A courageous football coach has sacrificed his life to protect his students from a horrific massacre.
In the last heroic action of his life, Aaron Fies threw himself in front several students after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14.
On Thursday morning, the school's football team confirmed on Twitter that Fies was one of the 17 victims who were tragically killed in the 18th school shooting of the new year. He passed away shortly after being rushed into surgery.
"It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis," the post reads. "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."
Fellow football coach Willis May told the Orlando Sentinel he knew the slain hero was about to risk his life when he heard him speak through the school's security walkie-talkies. May said Fies was responding to another security guard's question on if he too heard the sound of firecrackers.
"I heard Aaron say, 'No, that is not firecrackers. That’s the last I heard of him," he said.
May added that he'll remember Fies, who was married with a young daughter, for his loving personality and strong work ethic.
"Big ol’ teddy bear,” May said. “Hardcore — he coached hard. Real good line. He did a great job with the [offensive] line. He took pride with working with those guys. Loyalty — I trusted him. He had my back. He worked hard. Just a good man. Loved his family. Loved his brother — just an excellent family man."
But Fies's co-workers aren't the only ones mourning over the late football coach.
Taylor Speziazle, 22, is a former student at MS Douglas and said she wasn't surprised to hear of Fies's final heroic moments. She said he was always known for wearing his iconic sunglasses, and when she met him when she was a freshman, he took her under his wing.
"Even if I wanted so much as a place to sit, his office was always open. He’d sit with me. He’d talk to me. He’d let me be in silence," Spezizale said.
Colton Haab, a 17-year-old junior and football player said Fies was the kind of man who would always put others before himself. He said he heard before his coach lost his life, he had shielded three of his classmates from gunfire.
"(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," Haab said.
He said that while football will never be the same, he knows his coach is in a better place.
"I'm glad he didn't suffer that much. It's sad because it's not going to be the same without him at school anymore, that's for sure," Haab said. "Football definitely won't be the same. We're definitely going to have to band back together as brothers and mourn his loss and pick up the pieces to try to rebuild our football team."
Feis has had a longstanding history with MS Douglas High School. He graduated in the class of 1999 and played center for the football team.
According to the football team’s website, he returned to his old stomping grounds in 2002 and became head coach of the junior varsity team. He then coached the linemen for the JV and varsity teams, while also helping the players during college recruitment.
Fies heroic actions will never be forgotten.