Inspiring kindness from football star in wake of Santa Fe shooting

Houston Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt offers to pay funeral expenses.

Houston Texans’ football defensive end J.J. Watt offers to pay funeral expenses.

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

On May 18th, eight students and two teachers from Santa Fe High School in Texas lost their lives to gun violence. The shooter was identified as 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

This article is not so much about the shooting. Instead, it tells the story of J.J. Watt, Houston Texans’ football star, who volunteered to pay the funeral expenses for the 10 victims.

Reportedly, among the students killed was an exchange student from Pakistan, a substitute teacher, and a teen killed a day before his “own birthday party.”

As Watt responded to the tragic shooting, he was heard to use two words to describe sentiments about the deplorable shooting. “Absolutely horrific.”

Watt’s team likewise issued a statement about the tragedy. “The organization is saddened and extends its heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families and all those affected. We are grateful for the brave first responders, law enforcement officers and medical personnel. The Texans will continue to pray for our neighbors.”

Watt’s spontaneous generosity quickly spread. A local graveyard volunteered to offer free burial plots for the dead.

This is not the first time the football hero lent help when direly needed. In 2017, he raised millions for those devastated by Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area. It’s been reported that his goal was to raise $200,000 for the typhoon victims through his nonprofit, the Justin J. Watt Foundation. In less than three weeks, the donations passed the $37-million mark.

Watt was the recipient of the Walter Payton National Football League (NFL) Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes football players for both their on-the-field excellence and their charitable contributions away from the field.

Vigil for the Santa Fe school shooting victims. Photo: CNN.com

Vigil for the Santa Fe school shooting victims. Photo: CNN.com

The Southeastern Texas’ Santa Fe High School campus will remain a crime scene for some time. Ten people were killed and at least 13 more were injured. The suspect’s father told the Wall Street Journal his son was “a good boy” who was bullied at school. It’s been reported that the shotgun he used belonged to his father.

The Santa Fe High School shooting is another in a series of unspeakable tragedies resulting from gun violence. It was the third incident in May and the 16th so far in 2018. The shooting — coming on the heels of the February 14th massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — reignited a national debate over gun control. Seventeen people died in Parkland.

We ask once more: “What are members of Congress doing?” It is the collective cry that will continue to ring loud and clear until the deaths and the grieving stop.

© The FilAm 2018



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