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Rabbi Sped To Scene Of School Shooting To Be There For Students And Parents


A shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday took the lives of 17 people, devastating their family, friends, and many of those people have been turning to faith leaders in the community for guidance and support. One of those people is Shuey Biston. He's the rabbi at Chabad of Parkland, where some of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are members. And the rabbi joins us on the line. Rabbi, thank you for taking the time this morning. I know this is a difficult time for your community.

SHUEY BISTON: Yes. Thank you.

GREENE: Can you start by telling me where you were and what you did when you heard about the shooting?

BISTON: Well, I was actually at our synagogue when I got a text from someone. It said, hey, Rabbi, did you hear what's going on at Douglas? And I said, no. And just at that moment, I heard, like, helicopters above. And we're really close by. And I went outside, and I see the helicopters, and I start hearing the sirens. And I got in my car, and I knew that I had to get over there as soon as I could. So I - you know, I sped over to the school, and I just knew that I need to be there for a lot of the parents that were probably getting there and not knowing where their kids were and the students that were running out in shock, and disbelief, and screaming and crying what they just witnessed.

And sure enough, they started - when they saw me, started running over, and hugging and crying, you know, calling some parents. Kids didn't have their phones with them. They ran out without their bags. And we were just trying to make connections between the parents and kids because the school is a large campus, and, you know, it was cordoned off by different sections, so we were just trying to reunite the kids with their parents at that time.

GREENE: And I know you're - you've been continuing to do your best to heal this community. This morning, you've been going around the community, visiting families of victims, or what exactly are you doing?

BISTON: Yeah, well, actually, we have - the first two funerals are going to be this morning - two of the kids from the Jewish community, Alyssa Alhadeff and Meadow Pollack. So we're just going over some final things with the families this morning in preparation for the funerals.

GREENE: This has to be this kind of moment where people are looking to faith leaders like yourself for answers, for guidance. I mean, what can you possibly tell people right now?

BISTON: You know, there's not a lot you can tell them. We don't have the answers. We're asking why, and we're still in a state of shock. However, we could be there for a shoulder to lean on and for faith and just to be able to lift them up and give them strength and courage and knowing - them knowing that they're not in this alone.

The entire community is torn and broken. Every child that was killed has five or 10 best friends that watched it happen and that dodged a bullet. And we're grieving together. We're mourning together. And for these families, knowing that they have support and, you know, we're standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder with them is a lot of comfort for them.

GREENE: I know you said that Alyssa Alhadeff was a member of your synagogue. And any memories you'd want to leave us with?

BISTON: Alyssa was just - she filled the room with light and love. She was that child in the class that was always just there to pick up the other kids. She loved life. She was happy. She smiled. And in class, anytime that a kid was feeling out of it or, you know, wasn't involved, she would be the one that would, you know, hey, you know, Sidney (ph) or Jacob (ph), come on, let's go - and cheer them up and get them going. She had just a special, special, unique personality and - just such a lovely girl.

GREENE: Rabbi, thank you.

BISTON: Thank you.

GREENE: That's Rabbi Shuey Biston joining us from Parkland, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.