Once again, the story of Aaron Feis — the former Long Islander killed protecting children during the recent school shooting — has broken our hearts.
This time, it’s an artist’s vision of whom the burly assistant football coach would meet in the hereafter.
The cartoon of Feis, “Hero’s Welcome,” shows him being greeted in heaven by a crowd of mostly children. It has gone viral on social media and stirred another round of emotions about what happened to Feis, other school shooting victims and this country.
Canadian artist Pia Guerra, 46, said she was inspired by the reports that Feis had lost his life when he jumped in front of bullets intended for children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In the drawing, Feis is led into heaven by a smiling, freckle-faced girl.
“Come on Mister Feis! So many of us want to meet you,” the girl says to him.
Feis looks upon a crowd of children and a few adults, representing those killed in school shootings.
“I wanted to honor Mr. Feis for his act of love,” said Guerra, of Vancouver, British Columbia, “but I also wanted to emphasize what is gone, all these wonderful, brave and vibrant people.”
The alleged Parkland shooter — identified by police as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student there — has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, one for each of the 14 students and three staffers killed.
Guerra said she was watching the early reports on the shooting when the image was posted of Feis, 37, who had lived in West Islip as a boy.
“It broke my heart,” she said of Feis’ sacrifice.
His grandfather, Raymond Feis, of West Islip, said his grandson lived on the Island until he was about 10. Aaron Feis went on to play football and graduate from the Parkland high school before working there.
“He always took care of the kids. All the children loved him,” Raymond Feis said shortly after the shooting.
Guerra said the cartoon came rushing out of her onto the page. She titled it “Hero’s Welcome,” and tweeted it a week ago with the hashtag #guncontrol. It has been retweeted more than 20,000 times.
For many people, the cartoon produced a gut-punch of emotion.
“Pia, I thought I couldn’t cry anymore from the last two days. When I saw your drawing, I cried hysterically for a half-hour and I couldn’t stop,” tweeted one person.
“I weep every time I look at this,” added another person.
Guerra has received some criticism for the cartoon’s lack of diversity, and she has responded with an apology and promise that she will try to do better in the future.
She was co-creator and lead penciller of the award-winning comic book series “Y — the Last Man.” She has also worked on a Doctor Who comic.
She acknowledges the cartoon was born somewhat out of frustration. She was bothered by statements that the victims of such shootings go to a better place. That, she said, glosses over the loss.
Once people feel the magnitude of the loss, she said, “That should make you angry enough to do something about it.”