VOORHEES, N.J. — Shayne Gostisbehere was stunned after hearing the news and watching the images of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.
It was all too recognizable and too disturbing at the same time.
“I would say it always hits close to home, but when it’s your home, it’s pretty tough to see,” Gostisbehere said Thursday. “I haven’t really processed it yet and I still can’t believe it. I was just in that school. I was only there for two years. I felt safe at that school every day I was there. Just to see something like that happen to those kids and those teachers, it sucks.”
Born in nearby Pembroke Pines, Florida, Gostisbehere attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people while wounding another 14 Wednesday afternoon.
“One of my buddies texted me there was a shooting, and my girlfriend and I turned on whatever news station was on at the time, it sucks to see,” Gostisbehere said. “Those were the hallways you walked at one time before. It’s a tragic event, a tragic day.”
Gostisbehere spent his freshman and sophomore years from 2007-09 at Douglas High School before continuing his education and his hockey career at South Kent School in South Kent, Connecticut, roughly 30 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and another six adult staff members on Dec. 14, 2012.
"It definitely sucks to see," he said. "You turn on the news and it's your high school you went to. Obviously, it’s a tragic event. Things keep happening. It just sucks."
Gostisbehere also knew football coach Aaron Feis rather fondly. Feis was one of those who died from a gunshot after throwing himself in the line of fire to protect the lives of innocent children.
“He was always a great guy. He was always nice to me when I was there,” Gostisbehere said. “Obviously, it really shows his character of what he did in that time of panic and emergency — to put himself on the line for others. Obviously, he’s the true hero and the guy we need to focus on rather than the actual suspect.”
Even more mind-boggling for Gostisbehere is how an affluent, family-oriented community such as Parkland could be the site of one of the deadliest mass school shootings in our nation’s history. Considered a serene, wooded suburb of Fort Lauderdale, the population of Parkland has more than doubled since 2000. The National Council for Home Safety and Security had even ranked Parkland at the top of its 2017 list of Florida’s safest cities.
“My grandparents live a mile away from the school. I lived 10 minutes away," Gostisbehere said. "It’s a tough time. It was just voted the safest city in Florida last year and to see a tragic event like that is a shock right now.”
Following Thursday’s practice, Gostisbehere and the Flyers left for Columbus for Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets. The next home game is scheduled for Tuesday and the Wells Fargo Center is expected to have a moment of silence in recognition of those who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School prior to the team’s game with the Montreal Canadiens.