Last week, Anthony Rizzo attended a vigil for the 17 people who were slain during the mass shooting at Parkland’s Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It’s the high school that Rizzo attended growing up, and he was understandably extremely emotional while speaking at the vigil.
On Monday, back at spring training in Arizona with his Chicago Cubs teammates, Rizzo opened up about the speech, calling it the “hardest thing I ever had to do,” per Dan Cahill of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“You don’t know what to say. There’s nothing you can say. You’ve just got to be there for people in these times. There’s really nothing you can say and nothing you can do but be there and show them you care for them and you’re there for them.
“My first instinct was just kind of numb. I felt helpless here. That’s where I grew up. I got in trouble there; I succeeded there; I learned to be who I am because of Parkland.”
When news of the tragic shooting first broke last week, Rizzo used social media to call for a change. Since then, students who survived the massacre have come out with passionate pleas for a meaningful change as well.
“For them to be outspoken about it shows that they’re not just going to sit back and be another statistic,” Rizzo said. “They really want to make a change. I can’t even sit up here with confidence and say this is going to be the last mass shooting because it probably won’t be. But hopefully this [students’ taking action] is one of the steps in the right direction.”
Rizzo and his brother both knew and played for coach Aaron Feis, who bravely put himself in the line of fire to protect students during the shooting. Rizzo’s agent lost a niece during the shooting. Needless to say, this tragedy is hitting home in a huge way for Rizzo, along with the entire Stoneman Douglas community.
“Every single one of my best friends in high school, we all have memories of Coach Feis,” Rizzo said. “For him to lay his life down like that and save kids, it just shows the type of person he is. I believe he has a daughter or son at home. He’s a true hero. You’ve got this monster coming in shooting up the school and he jumps in front of kids and saves their lives. It’s sad. But I hope he continues to be recognized for that.”
Even though it was extremely emotionally draining, Rizzo is glad he went back home to lend his support to the grieving community.
“I’m happy I went home,” he said. “I really am. I’m happy I was there. I’m happy I got to speak to the community. … It’s just … it’s just… it’s just sad.”