SOUTHINGTON — At 2 a.m. the day after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, Paul and Patti Goldberg learned their 14-year-old nephew, Alex Schachter, had been killed.
The day before had been chaotic. Paul Goldberg had exchanged text messages with Alex’s older brother, Ryan Schachter, while he and other students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were in lockdown. The Goldbergs said they didn’t sleep that night.
“We haven’t slept much since,” Paul Goldberg said.
Alex and Ryan Schachter’s mother, who was Paul Goldberg’s sister, died 10 years ago. After, the boys grew even closer to their aunt and uncle in Southington, whom they visited every summer.
On Friday, the couple had their kitchen table covered with photos from trips to New York City and Boston and visits to the University of Connecticut. Alex and Ryan spent hours playing Wiffle ball with the couple’s two sons at their Miller Farms Road house during the annual visits.
“That was our special time with them,” Patti Goldberg said. “It didn’t matter what we did, they just enjoyed spending time with us.”
The Goldbergs remembered Alex as a sweet, gentle boy who loved the outdoors. He played trombone in the high school marching band.
In one of the photos, Alex and Ryan are standing with former UConn basketball player Ray Allen during a visit to the school. Alex’s mother attended the university, which he hoped to attend. The Goldbergs said he was almost always in UConn garb.
Alex would often wear a university sweatshirt at his high school. The university, in a Feb. 21 letter, awarded Alex honorary acceptance to the School of Fine Arts as a music major following his death.
“He died in a UConn sweatshirt,” Paul Goldberg said.
Max Schachter, Alex and Ryan’s father, has joined his surviving son in calling for changes to gun laws. Both attended and spoke at a forum organized by CNN last month during which Ryan read a poem written by his younger brother.
Patti Goldberg retired last June from Derynoski School after nine years as a special education para educator. She’s seen the mental health needs of students and said more should be done to address them. Goldberg also wants better security at schools and said she’ll be attending local meetings to call for upgrades.
“I’m going to be pushing for, if nothing else, some kind of policing in the schools with wands and then metal detectors,” she said.
She wants to start in Southington, but said every school in America should have those safety features.
Upgrades following the Sandy Hook shooting included video cameras and a buzzer system at school entrances.
“That to me still isn’t safe enough,” she said.
Brian Goralski, school board chairman, said his sympathies go out to the Goldberg family.
Some school windows and doors in Southington do have bullet-resistant glass, Goralski said. The board has discussed metal detectors, but no decision was made and he had “no strong opinion” either way.
The board has made a decision against “armed guards,” Goralski said, with members preferring a school resource officer whose duties are broader than protection against an armed intruder.
“I don’t want our schools to be fortresses or police states,” he said.
Both Goldbergs were disappointed with the lack of change to national gun laws following the Newtown school shooting. They were optimistic, though, that their nephew and other students who had become politically active would get the attention of the country’s leaders.
“I can only hope and pray that they’ll get the legislators, the president, whoever needs to will hear their voices, and make the changes that are necessary,” Patti Goldberg said.