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Memorial grows at The Covenant School as Nashville mourns shooting victims

A memorial at the gates of the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, continues to grow — filled with flowers, stuffed animals and balloons in honor of the six people, including three children, who were killed in Monday's shooting. 

"You just wonder: when is the call coming for you? You know? And they're babies. They're babies. This should not have happened," said Nashville resident Carolyn Lucas.

Authorities identified the victims as 9-year-olds Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, as well as 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, 61-year-old Mike Hill and 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, who was the head of The Covenant School.

Members of the Selected First Motorcycle Club join others in prayer at a makeshift memorial for victims of a shooting at the Covenant School campus, in Nashville, Tennessee, March 28, 2023.  BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Barrett Severance, a former student of Koonce's at another school, described her as "a champion for all students" and someone full of life who "had a lot more to give." 

"I'm representing a lot of people when I say she pulled us across the finish line often times after we quit," Severance said. 

Tricia Drake had known Koonce professionally for years. Upon hearing about the shooting, Drake expected Koonce would be at the center of the school's response, saying she was wholly devoted to the community.

"I was just telling my friends, 'I'm sure Katherine will come out. I'm sure Katherine will come out and tell everybody that everything's going to be OK.' And I waited for that, and I was just stunned. Stunned," Drake said.  

Drake said the last conversation she had with Koonce was about active shooter training, and said she believes Koonce would have done anything to save the children in her care. 

Along with Koonce, Hill and Peak both worked at the school. Hill worked as a custodian, and Peak was a substitute teacher. 

In a video statement released Tuesday evening, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said that his wife, Maria Lee, was longtime friends with Koonce and Peak. He said Peak was one of his wife's best friends and she had plans to see Peak later that day. 

"Cindy was supposed to come over to have dinner with Maria last night, after she filled in as a substitute teacher yesterday at Covenant," Lee said.  

Investigators haven't found evidence that the assailant specifically targeted any of the victims, and a motive for the shooting remains unknown.

David Begnaud
David Begnaud

David Begnaud is the lead national correspondent for "CBS Mornings" based in New York City.

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