"I can’t ever cuddle with him or hug him and tell him I love him again, but now Debbie will do that for me.” So said Max Schachter, 46, at the funeral of his son Alex. Alex was 14, one of the victims of the Florida shooting. Debbie, Alex’s mother, died ten years ago, and now her son is buried next to her at the Star of David Memorial Gardens Cemetery. So many people turned up for Alex’s funeral that the service had to be moved to a nearby convention centre.
When I spoke to Schachter this week, he sounded stressed and tense. An insurance agent, he is finding strength and purpose by establishing two foundations, one promoting school safety and the other to perpetuate Alex’s love of music.
He told me about rebuilding his life after Debbie’s death, and marrying Caryn, a widow with two daughters. With the two Schachter boys they formed a new happy, loving family.
Alex liked to play basketball and read. Recently, he’d developed a passion for playing the trombone. He was a skinny kid, according to his dad, but he developed muscles to cope with the rigour of daily band practice, and had the satisfaction of playing in his school’s band when they beat Park Vista High, one of the best local bands.
In 2016, the family celebrated Alex’s barmitzvah with a cruise around Italy. They planned to visit Israel for his step-sister Avery’s batmitzvah this summer. Schachter is distraught that Alex will never have the chance to explore and experience Israel.
Schachter hopes this massacre will be the last school shooting in America so that no more families will be engulfed in this horrific nightmare of grief. He held a forum on March 5 in which police chiefs and school safety experts from across the United States came to Florida to discuss steps which can be implemented now to make each school as safe as possible. Each paid their own expenses. This week, Schachter was appointed to the state commission investigating the massacre.
As part of his eulogy for Alex, he read a poem written by his son, entitled Life is a Rollercoaster. Then he told the audience: “Our elected lawmakers are a big part of the bar of our life’s rollercoaster.” He added. “Don’t just start anew and repeat the failures of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Act now and hear the cries of our community. No child and no family should ever have to experience this because of someone else’s failure to protect us.”