High school teacher Scott Beigel left this earth the way he had lived his life: looking out for the young people in his care.
The camp-counselor-turned-teacher was one of 17 victims in the high-profile shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week.
“All teachers I know are horrified that, once again, school classrooms and hallways have been killing fields,” said Mary Kay Rendock, a teacher at Carmen Arace Intermediate School in Bloomfield, Connecticut. “I am in tears thinking of the terror those teachers felt as they shielded, hid, and protected their students, and as some paid with their lives.”
Beigel had been a longtime friend of Sarah Williams, principal at Carmen Arace. The two were Starlight summer campers together, then counselors, then—like many camp alums—classroom teachers.
Last Thursday, as shots rang out at the high school where Beigel taught geography and coached cross country, he unlocked a classroom to let students hide inside. It was a swift and heroic move that would not surprise anyone who knew him. But while some students made it to safety, their beloved teacher and coach did not. When Williams heard the news, she was crushed.
“I had known Scott for 25 years,” she said through tears. “He was a hero to so many kids, to so many of us.”
As communities in Florida began organizing races in Beigel’s memory, Rendock—a runner herself—got to work doing the same. She rounded up fellow Bloomfield teachers as well as members of her running club, which also includes educators from around the state. In all, more than 30 men and women gathered at dusk at the track at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford to pay tribute to Beigel and the 16 other victims of Parkland. Some brought their children. Some brought signs commemorating Parkland’s students, teachers, and coaches.
“Scott was killed shielding his students, and we are here to honor his legacy,” Rendock said.
“We are here,” Williams added, “to honor his spirit.”
Rendock and some of her fellow teachers wore the same blue T-shirts they had made up after Connecticut’s own notorious school shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012. They read, “Bloomfield Believes…Love Wins.”
“I am here because Scott was a fellow teacher,” said Bloomfield fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Coleman, who came out to run with her husband and their infant daughter. “I am remembering the difference he made.”
Torrington special education teacher Mark Mangelinkx recalled that he was a first-year teacher the year of the deadly high school shooting at Columbine, almost 19 years earlier. Last night, he ran 17 laps—one for each of the students and teachers killed in Parkland. Among other things, Mangelinkx voiced his hope that schools would be given more resources for mental health support.
Frustrated by lawmakers’ inaction on gun safety, many teachers planned to participate in upcoming events around the state and in Washington, D.C., to demand change.
“To say it’s scary is doing it an injustice,” said Bloomfield teacher Katrina Kucinskas. “It’s unfathomable, and it’s not the world I want my children to grow up in.”