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TOPSHOT - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. 
Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student.
 / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE        (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: RHONA WISE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
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This image made available by the Broward County Sheriff's Office on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, shows Sheriff Scott Israel, holding the hand of Anthony Borges, 15, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The teenager was shot five times during the massacre on Valentine's Day that killed 17 students. Borges is being credited with saving the lives of at least 20 other students. (Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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This image made available by the Broward County Sheriff's Office on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, shows Sheriff Scott Israel, holding the hand of Anthony Borges, 15, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The teenager was shot five times during the massacre on Valentine's Day that killed 17 students. Borges is being credited with saving the lives of at least 20 other students. (Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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Additional Embargo:       Additional Source(s):        Date Shot: 2/15/2018      Shipping/Billing Info:            Description:     Projects:     None    Cost Center:     Atlanta National Desk / 20100101        Created By: severc    On: 1518689865    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Story highlights

"He died a hero," one school official says

We must "band back together as brothers and mourn his loss," a football player says

(CNN) —  

Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It would become perhaps the final act undertaken by the assistant coach and security guard, who suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.

“He died the same way he lived – he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”

Feis was among 17 people killed when a former student armed with a rifle opened fired on campus, unleashing a massacre that stands among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.

Colton Haab, a 17-year-old junior and football player who was close with Feis, said he heard the coach shielded three girls from gunfire.

“That’s Coach Feis,” Haab said, describing the educator as selfless, approachable and friendly.

“(He) made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible,” Haab said.

Haab last saw Feis Tuesday morning in a school hallway, he said. They talked “about normal stuff,” like work and football.

“I’m glad he didn’t suffer that much,” the teenager said. “It’s sad because it’s not going to be the same without him at school anymore, that’s for sure. Football definitely won’t be the same. We’re definitely going to have to band back together as brothers and mourn his loss and pick up the pieces to try to rebuild our football team.”

Janitor ushers students to safety

Feis, who spent his whole career at the school after graduating from Stoneman Douglas, was among countless heroes whose stories began emerging after Wednesday’s horror

Teacher Melissa Falkowski hid 19 students in a closet as the shooting erupted. Most students communicated silently on their phones, she said. Others burst into tears.

“This is the worst nightmare that could ever happen to you,” she told CNN.

Meantime, as a fire alarm blared, a janitor diverted senior David Hogg and other students away from the direction of the shooting, Hogg told CNN affiliate KTRK. A teacher then opened a classroom door so they could hide.

“Without her, who knows how many of us would have died, ‘cause we were easily 100 feet away from the freshman building,” Hogg said, “and again, we thought this was a drill.”

CNN’s Chuck Johnston contributed to this story.