Click above to hear Coach Willis May
PARKLAND, Fla. — Football Coach Willis May entertained a pair of college football recruiters and a couple of his players at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The conversation over the future of those players was happening in Mays’ football office in the school’s physical education area near the end of the school day. May, a Logan native, is the head coach at Stoneman Douglas and is the former head coach at Hurricane High School in West Virginia.
May’s two sons, Corey and Jordan May serve as assistant coaches, were due to arrive any moment for after school weight lifting.
Suddenly there was a noise followed by a fire alarm. According to May the alarm was unusual since they had already had a fire drill earlier in the day. Over a security radio in his office May heard the voice of one security officer ask if the noise was a firecracker.
“Another guy came on the radio and said, ‘That was no damn fire cracker.'” Mays recalled in recounting the incident for MetroNews. “Then over the intercom came our administrator who did a great job, he said ‘Code Red’ which is the code for an active shooter on the premises.”
May told his players and the two coaches to stay put. He locked his office door and the door to an outer office. He then went to see if he could help.
“I went walking down the hall and I heard bang-bang bang…gunshots. So I jumped behind a column.” May said. “I moved into the gym where I knew I could get a better look through some wide widows. I saw some kids running, but I didn’t see anybody with a gun.”
Listening on the security radio, May could tell administrators and police units were using the school’s video security to scour for potential shooters. He also heard a description of the shooter. He retreated to his office where his players and the college coaches were in a frenzy.
“They’re saying they saw him walk right by my window going toward the back of the school,” May explained as the group in the office heard the same conversation on another radio. “They told what he was wearing and they said he walked right by here. He didn’t’ have a gun. He walked to the back of the school, out the door, and blended in with the other kids who were evacuating.”
An hour later, police captured the suspect, Nicholas Cruz a mile away, ironically in the company of one of May’s football players who was unaware Cruz might be the culprit.
Back at the school, May’s phone had immediately been jammed with texts, starting with his wife Melissa along with Jordan and Corey. For whatever reason, the two normally punctual brothers were running late and heard about the incident through their phones on their way to the school.
“I don’t know why they were late, but normally they walk right by there. It was just luck because if they had been on time they would have been right there where all of that happened coming to the football office,” said May.
May texted one word to his wife and sons, “Lockdown.” He said there was not time for any more communication. Eventually, police escorted he and the coaches and players out of the office and off school grounds. It’s where May got the tragic news that two men he knew well were among the victims.
— Corey S. May ™🦁 (@The_aMAYzing1) February 14, 2018
Assistant football coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon were both fatally shot in the attack. May learned from a student they died heroes.
“I didn’t see it but a girl told me Coach Feis stepped in front of her, pushed her out of the way, and got shot and was killed,” May said. “Hixon was an ex-military man. He was also a great man and great person. You talk about two men who you just can’t replace. They’re beautiful people, beautiful husbands, just unbelievable men.”
May left Hurricane for Florida in 2012 and started out as an assistant coach before being promoted to the head coaching job a year later. Like most in the community, he now feels helpless.
“It’s just terrible,” he said. “A group of 9th grade kids are gone and nobody knows what do do or where you go from here.”
One thing May has vowed, he wants to make sure the world knows Feis‘ story. Amid deep and horrible tragedy, it’s the one thing May knows he can do that’s positive for his beloved assistant coach, close friend, and Feis’ family.
It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis. He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories pic.twitter.com/O181FvuHl3
— MS Douglas Football (@MSDEagles) February 15, 2018
“He was a beautiful man, just a big teddy bear. But he cares about the kids and all of the kids love him,” explained May. “He’s got a daughter he adores and a wife he adores. He’s so proud of his daughter as she is starting to play volleyball. He’s just a good, good man.”