ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A girl who used to live in Alaska was among the victims in Friday’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.
Kimberly Vaughan, a 14-year-old freshman, was killed in the shooting, her mother, a former Alaskan, told Channel 2.
Rhonda Hart, Vaughan’s mother, says Vaughan loved to read fiction. Hart had taken her daughter on a Harry Potter vacation recently, and she also enjoyed the Percy Jackson series.
Hart spoke with CNN about the day of the shooting, saying the last words she said to her daughter were "I love you" accompanied by the American Sign Language sign for "love." That interview can be viewed below:
"This was our thing, was 'I love you' in ASL" - Rhonda Hart, mother of Santa Fe victim Kimberly Vaughan, shares her last words to her daughter with CNN's Anderson Cooper https://t.co/WtTWSiqRiI https://t.co/3dsXe3tYsN— CNN (@CNN) May 22, 2018
Vaughan was a Girl Scout, and had started working on her Gold Star project – the Girl Scouts’ equivalent to an Eagle Scout honor. Vaughan also has an 11-year-old brother, who’s a Boy Scout.
Vaughan’s Gold Star project idea was to start an American Sign Language course for parents of young kids with speech or hearing problems. It was spurred by her experience as a toddler who spoke later than other kids her age, and Hart says teaching her daughter signs as a toddler helped them communicate.
They lived in Juneau from 2006-2009. “She remembers it – she remembers Juneau and catching her first salmon,” and skiing with her Kindergarten class, Hart said. Hart returned to Alaska in 2010 for the Wasilla High School class reunion, and says while here, she picked up a Girl Scout badge from the Mat-Su Council of Girl Scouts for her daughter’s Brownie vest.
“So she always had a little Alaskan thing with her,” she said.
Hart is a school bus driver, and says the last time she saw her daughter was Friday morning at the school – Kimberly’s bus had parked behind her mother’s.
“She walked by my door and I said, 'Bye Kim, I love you!’ and we did the ASL I love you sign, which has been our thing since she was little, and she did it back,” Hart said.
Hart says her daughter was in first period art class when Dimitrios Pagourtzis started shooting. She says she doesn’t know whether or not her daughter knew the boy.
Now, Hart is calling for stronger gun laws, parental accountability, and stronger school security.
“I'll tell you,” Hart said on the phone Monday, “that one door to the art room was like the weak point in the school, and he exploited that.”
Hart also said she wants parents whose minor children use their guns in crimes like this to be held accountable, and she also advocates for the use of gun locks. Hart says she’s a veteran and the VA was handing out gun locks for free—she grabbed some to hand out to her friends and family.
“It doesn't matter what branch we're in, we’re all in one family, and if they feel compelled to speak out, then please do it,” she said.
“I was sitting there at the table last night with friends and family and I said, ‘I can sit here and I can be sad about it, and I can cry, which doesn’t do any good. Or I can talk to people about how awesome (Kimberly) was and I can start calling my politicians, and you know, we can work on making some changes so it doesn’t have to happen again,” Hart said.
She remembered back to her own high school days at Wasilla High school, in the aftermath of the Columbine school shooting. She says the school was evacuated twice after that while she was there. “I was in Japanese class when they made that announcement one morning, and Columbine was the first, and it should’ve been the last.”
A moment of silence was held Monday in many places to honor those killed: