At least 2 dead and 8 injured after a school shooting in Saint Louis 2:48
(WABNEWS) — Jean Kuczka and Alexandria Bell were about to celebrate major milestones in their lives.
Alexandria, 15, was looking forward to traveling to Los Angeles to celebrate her 16th birthday, her father Andre Bell told WABNEWS affiliate KSDK.RELATED
“My daughter was planning to come here to California and celebrate her birthday with me on November 18,” Andre Bell told WABNEWS affiliate KSDK.
“But now we have to plan his funeral.”
Kuczka, 61, was preparing to retire after a long and illustrious career as a teacher, her daughter Abigail Kuczka told WABNEWS.
But an inexplicable shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis shattered those dreams and tore apart the families of the victims.
Professor Jean Kuczka died defending her students
One of Kuczka’s colleagues, Kristie Faulstich, said the slain teacher died protecting her students.
During the rush to evacuate students from the school, “one student looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. Kuczka was shot.’ And then she said that Ms. Kuczka had gotten between the attacker and the students,” Faulstich said. .
Alexis Allen-Brown said she was not surprised to learn that one of her favorite high school teachers had died trying to save her students.
“When I found out, my first thought was … that she cared a lot about the students,” Allen-Brown said. “She was going to save those babies.”
Kuczka often used inspirational quotes that he believed in, such as “Before you are anything, you are a human. And every human being deserves respect,” Faulstich recalled.
Kuczka, a health and physical education teacher, was preparing to retire in the coming years, her daughter Abigail Kuczka said.
“Jean was passionate about making a difference and enjoyed spending time with her family,” her daughter said in a statement sent to WABNEWS.
Allen-Brown, now in her 20s, was one of the alumni who fondly recalled Kuczka’s impact on her students. “He had a good heart. He was sweet. He always made you laugh, even when you tried not to,” Allen-Brown said. “She made you feel real, in and out of class. She made you feel human. And she was so sweet.”
In his biography in website from school, Kuczka said she had worked at VPA Central High School since 2008. “I believe that every child is a unique human being and deserves an opportunity to learn,” she wrote in her biography.
A talented dancer who “made everyone laugh”
Alexandria was a member of the Saint Louis Dazzling Diamonds dance group. Her dance partners created a poster of Alexandria’s image that is now part of a growing memorial in front of the school.
Her friend Dejah Robinson said the two planned to celebrate Halloween together this weekend.
“She was always funny and always had a smile on her face and made everyone laugh,” Robinson said, fighting back tears.
Robinson, who attends another school, said he wants lawmakers to act on gun control.
“They know what’s going on and they could have done something,” he said. “But it’s clear they’re not doing anything and they won’t.”
The father of the slain teenager said his daughter had the ability to make any day the best.
“Alexandria was everything to me. She was cheerful, wonderful and just a great person,” Bell told KSDK.
“She was the girl I loved to see and loved to know about. No matter how I felt, I could always talk to her and she was fine. She was my baby.”
But, at the worst time for her father, she won’t be able to be there for him.
“I really want to know: How did that man get inside the school?” Bell told KSDK.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said. “I’m very upset. I need someone, the police, people in the community, whoever, to make sense of this.”
— WABNEWS’s Amanda Jackson and Paul P. Murphy contributed to this report.