Kendrick Castillo is a bright light of selflessness and love in days where Americans move from one tragedy to the next, marking their sorrow with headlines and social media posts.
The 18-year-old Colorado senior died Tuesday while saving his classmates from one of two shooters who police say opened fire in STEM School Highlands Ranch. Eight other students were injured and we pray the three who remained hospitalized survive and thrive following this tragedy.
Castillo was no superhero or well-trained Marine. He was just a kid. His father, John Castillo, called him “the best kid in the world.” We have to agree. Colorado owes Kendrick more than it could ever repay. According to his classmates and his father, Kendrick lunged at the shooter who had brought a gun into his British Literature class, giving students precious time to escape or hide.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” John Castillo told Denver Post reporter Sam Tabachnik. “He cared enough about people that he would do something like that.”
Remarkably, Castillo wasn’t alone in his courage. Reports indicate that other students joined in his gallantry, physically confronting one of the two people arrested in connection to the shooting.
Student Nui Giasolli was on NBC’s “Today” Wednesday morning and thanked Castillo and the other young men who she said went after the shooter.
“They were very heroic. I can’t thank them enough,” she said.
We can’t thank them enough either. Nor can we express enough appreciation for the security guard who was on campus and apprehended one of the suspects, or the first responders who rushed into the building within minutes of getting the call for help, or the teachers and administrators who did their best to protect their students.
“We’re going to hear about some heroic things inside the school,” Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Wednesday morning. Indeed.
Spurlock and his team have handled the situation with efficiency and professionalism that inspires confidence that if we cannot prevent every shooting, at least we can limit the loss of life with an immediate response. Every parent should demand that their school have security guards or police equipped to respond to an armed threat on campus at all times.
This is the fourth school shooting in Colorado since 1999. Four in 20 years is hardly an epidemic. But school shootings - and mass shootings in general - have spiked in recent years in America.
While we will never regain the innocence our schools enjoyed prior to the tragedies, we can take the glimpses of good that emerged from each tragedy and celebrate and honor them.
Coloradans should ask themselves what they can do today to honor Kendrick Castillo, and then do it tomorrow, next month, next year, and the year after that, until the distant day when we can say with confidence our schools are safe.