During a town hall between Parkland students and teachers, Florida officials, and NRA representatives that was hosted by CNN on Wednesday, the father of a victim of the Parkland shooting took the stand. Max Schachter read a poem written by his son Alex, called "Life Is Like a Roller Coaster," which Alex had created for a literary fair shortly before he died.
"Two weeks ago, Alex was assigned a poem for a literary fair," his father said. "He decided to write about roller coasters because Alex loved roller coasters. He wasn't writing about his life, and had no idea his poem would become his future."
Schachter said that his son Ryan read the poem at Alex's funeral on Sunday, which was attended by around 1,200 guests. He explained that he wanted to share it with the audience because "it's amazing, I love it, and I want everyone to hear Alex's words."
Alex was only 14 years old when he was murdered at school last Wednesday. He was one of 17 victims killed at the hands of a lone gunman who shot students and teachers at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Alex had lived in Parkland for eight years prior to his death and was in the middle of completing his freshman year at the school. He was shot in the chest and transported to the hospital in critical condition before dying from the wound.
After his brief introduction, Schachter read Alex's poem:
Life is like a roller coaster
It has some ups and downs
Sometimes you can take it slow, or very fast
It may be hard to breathe at times
But you have to push yourself and keep going
Your bar is your safety
It's like your family and friends
You hold on tight and you don't let go
But sometimes you might throw your hands up
Because your friends and family will always be with you
Just like that bar keeping you safe at all times
It may be too much for you at times
The twists, the turns, the upside downs
But you get back up, you keep chugging along
Eventually it comes to a stop
You won't know when, or how, but you will know
That it will be time to get off and start anew
Life is like a roller coaster
Alex loved music and was a member of his school's Eagle Regiment marching band, in which he played trombone and baritone. He was "proud" to be part of the band, a classmate told The Sun Sentinel, and to have helped them win a state championship. Band director Alexander Kaminsky told the paper that "he really had a bright future on the trombone."
Alex is widely described as having been an incredibly kind kid who often had a smile on his face.
"He never said anything bad," said one of Alex's classmates at his funeral. "He always made people laugh and smile," said another.
"He had so many friends. He was loved by everyone," said Jamie Zand, a friend of his family. "My heart breaks [for his family].... They don’t have a bad bone in their body."
Schachter told The New York Times that he had recently been talking to his son about his future, including what classes he would take next semester. Alex reportedly hoped to one day attend the University of Connecticut and often wore its sweatshirt.
Schachter is friends with Frozen actor Josh Gad, who tweeted out a message for support for the family on Wednesday. "Watching our family friend #maxschachter read his son Alex’s poem tonight is almost too much for me to bear. Max, we are all with you. We love you. Your strength is incredible. Your son’s poetry is light in this darkness," he wrote.
Alex's family has set up a GoFundMe scholarship fund in his honor. "In an effort to continue his memory, this scholarship is being created to help other students experience the joys of music as well as fund increased security at schools," reads the description on the page. "Please help keep Alex’s spirit alive." As of this writing, the fund had received $144,391 in donations, far surpassing its $25,000 goal.