A Canadian artist is going viral for her emotional (to the point of gut-wrenching) comic honoring the victims— and heroes— of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Pia Guerra was inspired by the story of Aaron Feis, the assistant football coach and security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Feis died last Wednesday while using himself as a human body shield to protect students from gunfire.
Pia told BuzzFeed News how a “light bulb went off, one that gave me a huge lump in my throat” when she saw the heroic story on the news. She knew instantly that she had to memorialize this man the best way she knew how.
The drawing depicts Aaron Feis being welcomed into a heaven by a wide-eyed, smiling little girl. She leads him by the hand towards a large group of children and adults— presumably the victims of other school shootings. “Come on, Mister Feis! So many of us want to meet you!” the girl is saying to Feis.
— Pia Guerra (@PiaGuerra) February 15, 2018
Feis was one of seventeen students and school staff members fatally gunned down by Nikolas Cruz last Wednesday, Feb. 14. Pia, who captioned her drawing “Hero’s Welcome” and added the hashtags #GunControl” and #Parkland, explained the motivation behind the affecting visual to ABC News:
“I wanted to take the standard ‘all these angels are in a better place’ trope and turn it around a little to show these wonderful, beautiful, brave lives…who should still be here to both prompt the viewer to ask why they aren’t here while also paying tribute to Mr. Feis’ act of love.”
Though Guerra has no children of her own, she has no trouble empathizing with the Florida victims and their families:
“How can anyone not find something to empathize with here? I don’t have kids but I have a niece and nephew, a godson, a lot of friends of mine have kids who I admire the heck out of…how would I feel if this happened to them?”
She wonders why the United States is reluctant to pass gun-control legislation, despite the obvious correlation between the lack of it and the frequency of our gun-related massacres (good question!):
“A country of 35 million people just north of you guys figured out the issue of access to certain guns and how it correlates to these events. Why haven’t you? No, gun control laws won’t absolutely stop these killings…but they will curb them by a significant amount and create a better society in the process.”
Guerra’s cartoon resonated with many, having garnered over 13,000 retweets and 30,000 likes in just a couple days’ time.
“I wanted to take the standard ‘all these angels are in a better place’ meme and turn it around a little, to show these wonderful, beautiful, brave lives…who should still be here,” Pia told BuzzFeed News. “To both prompt the viewer to ask why they aren’t here while also paying tribute to Mr. Feis’s act of love.”
When asked on Twitter what her intended message, she simply replied: “That all these brave, beautiful, vibrant people should still be with us.”