The parents of Joaquin Oliver, the 17-year old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who died in the school’s mass shooting Feb. 14, talked to Univision’s TV anchor Jorge Ramos about their loss and new mission: “As a parent you fight for your kids at all times,” his father Manuel Oliver said from his Parkland, Florida home. “When kids leave that fight needs to continue, even if that mission changes and takes on a new meaning. But you have to fight for your kids until you leave [this earth], not until they do.”
In an exclusive interview on Ramos’ news show Al Punto, the distraught father reflected on his young son’s life, who was buried in his favorite Dwayne Wade basketball jersey and whom loved one called ‘Joaq.’ “Joaquin was a dreamer. He was a fighter. He loved sports, he loved music, and I’m sure that if he had the good fortune of being a survivor, he would be the first one joining the fight led by these young people,” he emphasized referring to Joaquin’s classmates who’ve become advocates for gun safety and regulations after the tragedy.
Joaquin’s mother, Patricia Padauy, opened up about the devastating moment she realized there was a “red code” at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: “A friend tells me there is a lock down. She later writes me that there’s a shooting,” she said of learning about the massacre at her son’s school, where former student Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire, killing 17. The parents said that when Joaquin didn’t return their calls after several hours, they got a call from the FBI confirming that he was fatally shot. Two days later, they saw their son again — as a corpse at a local funeral home.
The father recounted the last morning he spent with Joaquin before dropping him off at school. He said he woke him up at 6:30 a.m. and offered to make him coffee. He was in a rush. He showered and wanted to look nice because it was Valentine’s Day. He picked up flowers, a greeting card and his book bag and headed out with him to school. “He told me: ‘Dad, I love you,’ I said: ‘Call me and tell me how your day goes.'” He never heard from him again.
The family left Venezuela when Joaquin was just three years old and came to the United States searching for the American Dream and a safer place to live. Their son was very happy here, they said, so they have no regrets about coming to America.
During the television interview, Manuel wore his son’s sneaker as a symbolic gesture. “You know the saying: ‘Put yourself in my shoes…’,” the father asked Ramos to which the Mexican TV journalist responded: “Yes, but you know, I can’t do that. I can’t imagine that.'” Manuel replied: “It’s difficult. I’m putting myself in his shoes. That’s our role now. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of these young people.”
Ramos, who has two grown children of his own, got teary-eyed when reading aloud loving messages Joaquin had written about his parents on social media months prior to his death to commemorate Father’s Day and his mom’s birthday. According to Manuel, Joaquin’s final message to them, although he didn’t live long enough to put it into words, was: “Fight for the rights of these kids. Wear my shoes and help them,” he said of his son’s classmates who are demanding changes around gun laws. “That’s the mission.”