The 'Extraordinary' Lives Lost in the Texas School Massacre — and Stories of Courage from Inside

"It's been happening everywhere," one student survivor said of gun massacres in America

01 of 16

A Normal School Morning Turns Tragic

School Shooting Texas
Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle/AP

Early on Friday, during first period in one of the last school days of the year, a 17-year-old junior began shooting at an art classroom in Texas' Santa Fe High School, according to authorities. The rampage, which lasted about 30 minutes, killed 10 people: eight students and two teachers. Another 13 were wounded, including a school police officer who confronted the gunman.

Students at school that day later described the sudden swerve into chaos — the day's normalcy blasted apart by shotgun fire echoing in the halls. At some point fire alarms began to ring.

As some fled, others took shelter in dark and barricaded rooms.

"I jumped under the table and flipped it in front of me," 16-year-old sophomore Rome Shubert told reporters. "And I guess [the shooter] ran out into the hall. I took off out the back door and when I was running, I realized I was shot in the back of the head.

"I heard three pops and I turned to look to see what it was and saw my friend laying on the ground bleeding," recalls junior Christopher Kurrass, 17, who was in Spanish class. "I was frozen, then something clicked," he tells PEOPLE. "I grabbed two girls near me and took off running."

Loved ones of the dead have since spoken out to mourn them and celebrate their lives. Said Sabika Sheikh's father: “She was extraordinary, genius and talented.”

02 of 16

Sabika Sheikh, 17

Pakistan Association of Greater Houston Facebook

Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, was in Texas as part of the Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Programme. According to The Pakistan Association of Greater Houston's Facebook post, Sabika was due to come back home to Pakistan on Eid, a religious holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Sabika hailed from Karachi, a city of 18 million people in southern Pakistan, reports Al Jazeera. The outlet spoke to Sabika's father, Abdul Aziz, who said, “She was extraordinary, genius, and talented.”

Aziz added, “At such a young age she would say such huge things, that sometimes I couldn’t believe it. Even now I cannot believe that my daughter is gone.”

03 of 16

Cynthia Tisdale, 63


According to her niece, Leia Olinde, Cynthia Tisdale was substituting in the art class where the gunfire broke out.

Her brother-in-law, John Tisdale, wrote that Tisdale’s husband was stricken with an incurable lung disease that forced him to stop working, so Tisdale worked at Santa Fe High School and took a second job as a server to make ends meet.

“I am certain if we could talk to Cynthia, who is in heaven, the first thing she would say is she is concerned how [her husband] is going to make it,” John Tisdale wrote.

Olinde wrote that Tisdale “was another mother to me. Someone I could talk to about anything and go to for everything.”

She added, “I have no words to describe the way I'm feeling now.”

04 of 16

Shana Fisher, 16


Shana Fisher's mom described her to the Chronicle as "shy and sweet," saying, "She had a lot of love in her heart."

A GoFundMe page launched in her memory says, "Her family is devastated" and "absolutely grief-stricken."

“She should be worrying about getting her driver’s license, making plans for summer break, maybe start thinking junior year and making plans for college and what she wants be when she grows up,” an aunt, Ericha Fisher Farris, wrote on Facebook. “She should be at home rolling her eyes from fighting with her little sister.”

05 of 16

Christopher Jake Stone, 17

Nicole Fritter

Angelica Stone, the sister of Chris Stone, 17, told PEOPLE her brother was adventurous and kind, a teen who "lived life to the fullest" and was protective of his older sisters.

"He was just a loving person, there wasn't a mean bone in his body," she said about the ardent Dallas Cowboys fan who played center on the school's football team.

She added, "He was always there for you, he was always there to listen, he had an open mind. There was nothing he would judge you about."

Angelica said her brother had discussed with their mom what he would do in the event of a mass shooting, and Chris had said he would do his best to hold the door to keep a potential shooter away.

Although the account of Chris's final moments hasn't been confirmed by authorities, Angelica says she heard Chris was fatally shot while in a closet with other kids, holding the door so that the shooter couldn't get in — exactly as he said he would.

"He couldn't be selfish," says Angelica. "My parents raised the best son they possibly could."

06 of 16

Glenda Perkins


Perkins' friend Sharon Flood Free tells PEOPLE, "She was wonderful and very caring — really looked out for the students."

A GoFundMe page launched in her memory says, "She protected her students in her last moments. The Perkins family is devastated and are remembering her with dear love."

Zachary Muehe, a sophomore, told The New York Times that Perkins was “everyone’s favorite substitute,” even among students who had graduated.

07 of 16

Kimberly Vaughan, 14


Rhonda Hart spent more than six agonizing hours on Friday trying to find her daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, after learning that gunfire had erupted at her school that morning. “My daughter was in first-period art class at Santa Fe high school today,” Hart, a former watercraft operator in the U.S. Army, wrote on Facebook just after 3 p.m. “There was a shooter. I have not found her. Pass this along.”

Her daughter, it turns out, was among the victims of the shooting that left nine others dead and 13 wounded.

Furious, Hart took to Facebook once again to urge people to fight for gun violence prevention. “Folks-call your damn senators. Call your congressmen. We need GUN CONTROL. WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR KIDS."

08 of 16

Angelique Ramirez


In the chaos that ensued after the terrifying news that a shooter had opened fire at the school, Angelique Ramirez’s aunt, Sylvia Pritchett, took to Facebook to say that she and her family were searching frantically for her niece who was nowhere to be found. “All we got info on is that she was shot in the leg,” she wrote.

Later on, she shared the grim news she and her family had been dreading, saying, “With a broken heart and a soul that just can’t process all this right now, I have to announce my niece was one of the fatalities.”

In a GoFundMe page created in honor of Angelique, family friend Rebecca Ruiz praised the slain teen as “a kind, compassionate and caring individual” who “brought smiles to those who knew her; specifically, her mother (Robin) and younger brother (Amadeus). Angelique’s smile was contagious and brightened up any room she walked into. In losing Angelique, her friends and family lost so much.”

09 of 16

Jared Black, 17


On Wednesday, Jared Conard Black’s family celebrated his 17th birthday with him, his uncle told local station KTRK. Now the teen’s devastated family must grapple with his untimely death. On Friday at 7:22 a.m., a man named Travis Stanich wrote about the massacre on his Facebook page, saying, “Another school shooting this time here in Santa Fe high Jared Conard Black scared for him.”

Seven hours later, before the teen’s death had been confirmed, he wrote, “He was in the classroom that it started I’m worried sick” before he said, “Still waiting to find out if Jared is ok.” Now friends and family are sending prayers to him and his loved ones about Black.

One of his friends posted a tribute to him, saying, “This is Jared Conard Black he died from the shootout he was my old friend and I cherish every memory I've had with him, he will never be forgotten from me.”

Black "would never hurt anyone," a family friend remembered his dad saying of him, according to the New York Times.

He "loved to play Minecraft on Xbox, play Pokemon Go on his cellphone, and loved art,” his brother Nick Black said in a statement with a friend. “We miss him so much.”

10 of 16

Christian Riley Garcia, 15

Crosby Church/Facebook

The pastor of Crosby Church wrote on the church’s Facebook page that Christian Riley Garcia and his family were parishioners.

“He has grown up in our church, I baptized him many [years] ago,” the pastor wrote. “I just left his wonderful, loving family and extended all of the prayers and love for them from our Church. I don’t know exactly how, but I know together in Christ we can make it.”

The post added, “Riley you are greatly loved and greatly missed.”

11 of 16

Aaron Kyle McLeod, 15


The Times reports that McLeod, who went by his middle name, was 15. According to the Associated Press, he was a freshman at the time of his death.

Known for his playful and friendly nature, one classmate reportedly said that she would not have been shocked to see that, had McLeod lived, he would have “made a joke about getting shot.”

“He was never one to be a sad or down person, he always had to joke or laugh about things,” friend Kali Reeves told the AP. “He was just outgoing and super sweet. He definitely didn’t deserve this.”

12 of 16

Hero Cop Confronted Suspect, Sustained Critical Injuries


Governor Abbott said the death toll could have been higher had not two officers confronted the gunman “early in the process” of the shooting. “Their actions probably ensured that more lives were not lost,” he added.

The first officer to confront the shooter, John Barnes, was crucially wounded after losing massive amounts of blood when he was shot in the arm.

A family member and a friend of Barnes’ both told PEOPLE Barnes expired twice and had to be resuscitated, but on Saturday, Frank Flaherty, the husband of Barnes’ cousin, described Barnes’ condition as “more stable.”

Barnes, a former Houston police officer who worked with child sex crimes victims, retired and took a job as a school officer with the Santa Fe Independent School District so he could spend more time with his family.

Flaherty described Barnes as a “cop’s cop” — the consummate helper and reliable source of support who loves his family and the Houston Astros.

13 of 16

Suspect Planned to Kill Himself After Shooting But Lost His Nerve: Governor

School Shooting Texas
Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News/AP

Seventeen-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a junior at Santa Fe, was identified Friday as the suspected gunman in the mass shooting. He faces charges of capital murder, among other counts, in the attack and remains in custody.

According to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, authorities learned from the suspect’s recovered journals, cell phone and computers that he allegedly planned to kill himself after the shooting but “gave himself up” after he realized “he didn’t have the courage.”

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Abbott described the suspect as someone who had not previously been on the radar of law enforcement. “We have what are often categorized as red flag warnings, and here the red flag warnings were either nonexistent or very imperceptible,” he said.

Abbott said that most disturbing, perhaps, was the fact that the suspect had previously posted a T-shirt to his Facebook page that bore the phrase “born to kill.”

In a later statement, the suspect's parents said: "We are as shocked and confused as anyone else by these events that occurred."

14 of 16

'I’ve Always Felt Like Eventually It Was Going to Happen Here, Too'


In the hours after the Santa Fe shooting, one student survivor told reporters the tragedy was not surprising to her given the prevalence of gun massacres in the United States.

“It’s been happening everywhere,” Paige Curry said.

Asked if there was a moment where she felt as though the shooting could not be real, could not be actually happening at her school, Paige shook her head. “No, there wasn’t,” she said with a small hitch in her voice.

She told PEOPLE that she, her teacher and others hid in a darkened practice room near the school's theatre after the shooting began.

“I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too,” she said on Friday. “So, I don’t know. I wasn’t surprised, I was just scared.”

15 of 16

J.J. Watt Will Pay for Funerals

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mizzen+Main

Houston Texas star J.J. Watt has offered to pay for the funerals of the victims, a team spokeswoman told PEOPLE.

The football player reacted to the shooting on Friday with a tweet that read, “Absolutely horrific.”

Watt raised more than $37 million in hurricane relief for Hurricane Harvey victims last year.

In 2017, Sports Illustrated named Watt its Sportsperson of the Year.

16 of 16

Baseball Team Plays Playoff Game After Two Players Injured

School Shooting Texas, Deer Park, USA - 19 May 2018
David J. Phillip/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Two members of the school’s baseball team were injured in the shooting: Pitcher Rome Schubert, who was grazed by a bullet in the back of his head, and catcher Trenton Beazley, who injured his arm.

The team was scheduled to have a play off game the day after the shooting, and the team’s coach left it up to the players whether they wanted to play or not. The players decided to play, providing the community a gathering place to come together after the tragedy, reports The New York Times.

The team lost its quarterfinal playoff game, 7-0. The Times reports that pitcher Tyler Fountain said it was the hardest gave he’d ever played.

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