Waynesville, N.C. - Riley Howell will be laid to rest this weekend but his legacy lives on.
Friday night, his family spoke with News 13.
They said they’ll not only remember him for being a loving son and brother, but also a good person.
“He was pretty much everything a big brother should be to us. He was funny. He was supportive, and he was very much a leader. He just loved us, loved the outdoors, loved his friends and family and things that mattered to him,” Riley’s younger sister Iris Howell said.
The 21-year-old from Waynesville is now being called a hero and will be buried with full military honors.
Police said Riley Howell ran toward the gunman at UNCC on Tuesday, sacrificing his life, but saving others.
“I was expecting them to say that when we went to Charlotte,” Riley’s father Thomas Howell said.
“At first, we didn’t know he ran at the gunman, we just knew that he’d been shot, and, when we got told that, it was like a huge weight got lifted from your shoulders. You just thought everything is right now. He did what he was supposed to do,” Riley’s younger sister Juliet Howell said.
The Howell family is staying as strong as it can while dealing with the unthinkable.
“It’s a combination of horrific sadness and love coming from all sides, and some dips and some peaks, and, yeah, it just actually goes minute by minute really,” Thomas Howell said.
Never Natalie or Thomas Howell thought their son would be the victim of yet another school shooting.
“I’m an educator. We talk about these things frequently, about how we try to keep our kids safe. You think about it, but you don’t think about it, if that makes any sense. And all the measures were in place to try to prevent this, but it just took one,” said Natalie Henry-Howell, Riley’s mother.
“Everybody should be able to send their kid to school —whether it’s elementary, high school or college — and not worry about them getting killed. It’s utterly senseless,” Thomas Howell added.
Leaning on one another for support, the Howells now look ahead on where to go from here.
News 13: “How do you, as a family, go back to normal life again? Is there a normal?
“No there’s not - everything’s changed,” said Natalie Henry-Howell. “[I] have to say the color drained out of the world that moment, and we’re sort of feeling our way through what might happen next.”
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