(NewsNation) — “I woke up, and it wasn’t a dream,” Kristie Faulstich read a text she received Tuesday morning from another teacher whom she works with at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, where a 19-year-old man opened fire on students and staff members Monday morning.
“The night was hard, I think for a lot of us,” Faulstich said, fighting back tears. “That’s how I feel like a lot of us are feeling right now.”
Faulstich, a world history and sociology teacher at the high school, recounted the devastating attack on her school community and remembered the life of Jean Kirk Kuczka, a 61-year-old teacher who put herself in between the shooter and her students.
In an interview on Monday, Faulstich said a student had come up to her outside after everything, and told her with tears in their eyes that Kuczka put herself in between them and the gunman.
“She was the first one that we really found out, you know, had been like, very hurt. I found out that she had passed away while we were at Gateway High School. And we all basically just completely burst down, you know, in tears,” Faulstich said.
She explained that all the teachers had just had a professional development session, and Kuczka, who was known for calling things she said “famous quotes,” said something that stuck with everyone: “Before you are anything else, you are a human, and every human deserves respect.”
“And that is who Ms. Kuczka was. She went into every day of her teaching life with respect and love for every single one of those kids,” Faulstich said.
A former student reached out to Faulstich Monday night to tell her that Kuczka saved their mother’s life because as the health and physical education teacher, Kuczka had taught that student CPR so successfully that the former student was able to use it on his own mother when she needed it.
“So, in his words, Kuczka saved his mother’s life,” Faulstich said. “She was just the most unbelievable, amazing person and she made our school.”
Faulstich wanted to respect the privacy of the family who lost their 16-year-old teenager in the shooting. In a brief remembrance, she said the girl, who Faulstich taught the previous year, was the “absolute sweetest girl” and she was “so loved by her friends and teachers.”
While it is difficult, Faulstich said she acknowledges the suspect as a human because of what Kuczka had said.
“Because he was a student, too,” Faulstich said sternly. “But I will say, this person, obviously, was a human. And part of why I’m going to be OK saying that is because Ms. Kuczka believed that. She said that. She said that before anything else, we are all humans. And she didn’t put exceptions for that in there. And in a moment like this, can we comprehend or understand why they did what they did? No. And we’re devastated for it. And lives were lost for it. And the damage that was done is irreparable and what was done to those families is irreparable. But I have to also carry on believing what Kuzcka said because I know that she would want us to believe what she said.”