Father of teen killed in school shooting says he has to plan a funeral instead of the girl’s sweet 16
(CNN) — Jean Kuczka and Alexandria Bell were on the brink of celebrating exciting milestones in their lives.
Alexandria, 15, was looking forward to traveling to Los Angeles to celebrate her Sweet 16, her father Andre Bell told CNN affiliate KSDK.
Kuczka, 61, was getting ready to retire after a long, illustrious career teaching, her daughter Abigail Kuczka told CNN.
But an inexplicable shooting rampage at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis destroyed those dreams and shattered the victims’ families.
“My daughter was planning on coming out here to California and celebrate her birthday with me on November 18,” Alexandria’s father Andre Bell told KSDK.
“But now we have to plan her funeral.”
A teacher shielded students from the gunman
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 she said, ‘They shot Ms. Kuczka.’ And then she said that Ms. Kuczka had put herself between the gunman and the students,” Faulstich said.
Alexis Allen-Brown said she wasn’t surprised to learn one of her favorite high school teachers died trying to save her students.
“When I found out, the first thing I could think about was … that’s how much she cared about the students,” Allen-Brown said. “She was going to save those babies.”
Kuczka often used inspirational quotes she believed in, such as “Before you are anything else, you are a human. And every human deserves respect,” Faulstich recalled.
Kuczka worked at Central VPA High School since 2008, according to her biography on the school’s website, “I believe that every child is a unique human being and deserves a chance to learn,” she wrote.
Allen-Brown, now in her 20s, said Kuczka succeeding in making a lasting impact on her students.
“She was kindhearted. She was sweet. She always made you laugh even when you wasn’t trying to laugh,” Allen-Brown said.
“She made you feel real, inside the class and out. She made you feel human. And she was just so sweet.”
A talented dancer who ‘kept everybody laughing’
Alexandria was a member the Saint Louis Dazzling Diamonds dance group. Her fellow dancers created a poster with Alexandria’s image that is now part of a growing memorial in front of the school.
Her friend Dejah Robinson said the two were planning to celebrate Halloween together this weekend.
“She was always funny and always kept the smile on her face and kept everybody laughing,” Robinson said, fighting back tears.
Robinson, who attends another school, said she wants lawmakers to act on gun control.
“They been knowing what’s happening, and they could have been did something,” she said. “But clearly they ain’t doing nothing, and they won’t.”
Alexandria’s dad said his daughter could make any day better.
“Alexandria was my everything. She was joyful, wonderful and just a great person,” Bell told KSDK.
“She was the girl I loved to see and loved to hear from. No matter how I felt, I could always talk to her, and it was alright. That was my baby.”
But in his greatest time of need, Alexandria couldn’t comfort her father.
He’s left agonizing over why someone took his daughter’s life.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said. “I am so upset. I need somebody — police, community folks, somebody — to make this make sense.”
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