Max Schachter offered the eulogy he wrote for his son’s funeral for On Parenting to run “so that the world would learn more about how very special Alex was to my family, his friends and our community,” he said. It follows, unedited, in full.
My name is Max Schachter. Alex is my little boy. When Alex was born on July 9, 2003, his mother and I were overjoyed. He was the cutest little boy, so inquisitive and sweet. He loved to play with all of his toys and of course, his older brother Ryan.
Alex’s life changed forever when he was just 4 years old. His mommy, my wife, Debbie, passed away suddenly in the middle of the night. It was very, very, hard for us for a long time. After several years went by, a woman came into my life that knew exactly what I had been through all those years and we fell in love. She was a widow herself. Her husband, Eamon, had passed away one month after Debbie did. That woman, my beshert, is Caryn. She had two beautiful daughters — Morgan and Avery.
We decided to move to Parkland to start our new beginning together. Alex and Ryan instantly had two sisters and Morgan and Avery instantly had two brothers. In the beginning, it was hard blending both families, but over time, the kids understood they were now siblings and they grew to love each other. The girls call me dad and the boys call Caryn mom. It was beautiful.
All four kids grew very close over time. They knew they had been through so much individually and now were complete together. Avery loved Alex. He was her big brother. She would want to give him hugs all of the time. He did not want these hugs ALL the time. I have so many cute pictures of her combing his hair or giving him a massage. Morgan loved to watch movies with Alex and both of the girls loved to talk with Alex about his favorite show Naruto. He used to tell me that it was the best because there were over 1,000 episodes. I told him I hope your goal is not to watch all 1,000. He told me, I already did. I said, “Oh geez.”
Even though Ryan was his older brother, Ryan was so good to Alex. Every night before bed after I hugged Alex, he would say, “I have to go say goodnight to Ryan.” I would say, “Come on Alex, you have to go to bed.” He wouldn’t listen. He would run into Ryan’s room for a quick cuddle or hug. Alex idolized his big brother.
We moved into Heron Bay because everyone said Parkland has the best schools and Alex was very happy. He had so many friends on the block to play with. During the summers, Alex attended Eagles Landing Camp with his friends. They even had a whole bunk to themselves and they would stay up all night. As he grew older, I wanted Alex to try sleep away camp in New York with Morgan and Avery. But, I could not extricate him from the Night Owls program. He had so much fun hanging out with his friends, playing Nerf basketball in their dorm room and trading FatHeads. He made me buy so many FatHeads — I think Eagles Landing Camp kept that company in business. Finally, he let me send him to Camp Echo in New York and he absolutely loved it. He made some great new friends there and really bonded with the counselors.
Alex loved spending time with his Bubbe and Zayde and especially enjoyed holiday dinners with his extended family and eating Bubbe’s brisket. Every Thanksgiving, he looked forward to our trip to Schenectady to visit with Morgan and Avery’s grand parents — Grannie and Baba. There were so many cousins there for him to play football with in their yard. Then we used to drive three hours to Long Island to see Nana and Grandpa where we would feast on the Thanksgiving meal. Alex couldn’t wait to eat Nana’s stuffing.
At West Glades Middle School, Alex started playing the trombone and he really excelled. He enjoyed it so much that during seventh and eighth grades, he took two band classes so that by the time he got to high school, he would be proficient at playing the baritone during marching band season and the trombone in concert season.
The first year of high school was a big shock for him. The marching band season was really hard and demanding and he was also taking hard classes. I think that taught him a lot of great life lessons. He learned good time management skills and the fact that if he worked hard and used his time efficiently, he could accomplish everything and be successful at the same time. I volunteered with the field crew so that I could be closer to Alex — I traveled with him when the band traveled, and it was a lot of fun. I was able to see him doing what he loved and succeeding at it. The culmination of all of Alex’s hard work came when his Eagle Regiment Marching Band won the state championship in Tampa last year. It was a huge accomplishment beating their nemesis and this is something that Alex was very proud of.
To Alex’s Band Ensemble Group — I know he was really looking forward to performing with you. You four boys had so much fun practicing and playing around. You should gain solace that he treasured every minute of his time with you. I would tell him that he only had one hour to practice because of his homework and two hours later, he would still be playing with you. Even though this was your first year together, I can assure you that if Alex were still here today, you would have been lifelong friends.
To Alex’s Lunch Group — he always told me he had so much fun eating lunch with you this year. He had all of his friends at the same table and this year, he developed friends with many new boys. Your bonds grew stronger each day and I am so happy you all could come over for our Super Bowl party. I am sorry you won’t be able to drink my smoothies with Alex anymore, but you can still come over anytime and we will make one together in his honor. They used to always ask me, “What do you put in this smoothie? It tastes so good.” I’ll tell you one more time so when you make it at home, you can think of Alex — frozen strawberries, mango, blueberries and Bai Coconut Water. That’s it! Simple and healthy! They would drink that stuff by the gallons at my house.
Maybe when you all go home, you can make one for your sons and daughters and we will drink it in Alex’s honor and call it “The Alex Smoothie.”
Sunday I buried Alex in the same cemetery as his mother Debbie, who passed away 10 years ago. Today, I moved her so she can be next to Alex and take care of him. I can’t ever cuddle with him or hug him and tell him I love him again, but now Debbie will do that for me.
I moved my family to Parkland because it was an idyllic little community. I never thought this would happen to me. I never thought it would happen here. I tried to do everything I could to be a good father and protect Alex. Losing my most precious Alex has made me realize that lawmakers did not do enough to protect him. I will do everything in my power to make sure we do not lose another blessed child, like my little boy. That’s why I have created a gofundme campaign in Alex’s name, so we can improve school safety and raise money for the marching band he loved. I am hoping our elected officials will learn from this tragedy and will enact legislation to prevent this from happening to the next student, the next son, the next brother, the next Alex.
Two weeks ago, Alex was assigned a poem for a literary fair. He decided to write about roller coasters because Alex loved roller coasters. He wasn’t writing about his life and had no idea that his poem would become his future.
Our elected lawmakers are a big part of the bar of our life’s rollercoaster. Don’t just start anew and repeat the failures of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Act now and hear the cries of our community. No child and no family should ever have to experience this because of someone else’s failure to protect us.
If you feel compelled by reading this eulogy and if you want to help make a difference by keeping schools safe for our kids, here is the Alex Schachter Scholarship Fund.
This fund will be used to promote school safety and continue the joys of music for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.