As soon as he heard of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the first thing Mike Virden did was text his friend, Aaron Feis.
“Are you OK?”
It was 2:03 p.m.
But as each agonizing hour without an answer went by, Virden feared the worst. Social media posts confirmed it: Feis was among the 17 victims killed at the Parkland, Fla., school.
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Virden had left his position as Meridian High’s football coach in 2007 to become the head varsity coach at Douglas. His junior varsity coach was Feis, a longtime employee at the school he graduated from in 1999.
Feis, 37, reportedly stepped in front of the shooter’s bullets as he moved students from harm’s way.
“Aaron’s always been a hero there, and now the whole world is going to know that,” Virden said. “It’s not surprising what he did. He was so pure, there’s no other way to describe him. He lived for Douglas. We used to joke that he was ‘the mayor.’ He was my right-hand man.”
Douglas coach Willis May told the Miami Herald of Feis, “(Players would) go on and on about how good he was to them and how he always had a smile for everybody. It’s sad.”
Virden coached at Douglas for just one season before moving on to coach at an Iowa junior college, but he brought four recent Meridian High graduates with him to Florida. They all worked closely with Feis, who also worked as a security guard at the school.
Feis even made the trip to Boise this past summer to attend the wedding of Ben Thienes, a 2003 Cole Valley Christian graduate who was Virden’s defensive coordinator at Douglas.
Thienes, who now is the director of football operations at San Jose State, posted a picture of him, his wife and Feis on Twitter.
“He had never been to the mountains, so we went up to McCall and showed him all around,” Virden said. “I’m so thankful we had that opportunity. What happened, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
Virden, who owns Mike Virden Auto & RV Sales, will return to the Meridian sidelines this fall after more than a decade away. He was hired as Meridian High’s head coach in December. When the former Boise State quarterback headed to Florida to find bigger challenges, he said Feis played “a big part” in the team’s 8-3 record.
Talking with former assistants and the ex-Meridian players who knew Feis, the news hit Virden hard.
“We’re just devastated,” Virden said. “Something so grotesque happening in a place with some special people, a place we had such a great experience, it was heartbreaking. Aaron was the last person that deserved something like that.”