New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft loaned a team plane to members of the Parkland, Fla., community affected by last month’s school shooting so they could attend the March for Our Lives protest in Washington.
Some 100 people made the flight Thursday, including several of the families of the 17 people who died during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some of the students who were injured and a group of students who would perform an original song at the march on Saturday.
“I don’t really move a lot now since the incident, and going on the Patriots plane was really cool to me because I actually got out and did something,” Kyle Laman told Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback.
Laman, 15, needed three complicated surgeries to save and reconstruct his foot following the shooting. He has to keep his foot elevated at all times and had plenty of room to do so on the custom Boeing 767, which was equipped with a special wheelchair lift for Laman.
“I can’t even imagine going through the airport, going through TSA, security,” his mother, Marie Laman, told MMQB. “There was no way he could have ever, ever gone to Washington if it wasn’t for this plane.”
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived being shot in the head during a 2011 public event, and husband Mark Kelly reached out to Kraft to ask for the favor.
“When they called and asked would you send a plane and help take the wounded kids and their families and kids who couldn't go on a normal plane, we didn't hesitate a minute,” Kraft told reporters Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. “Because think of it, all of you who have kids, think about losing one of your kids. You wake up in the morning and they go to school and don't come home at night.
“I just thought this is a way for our organization to be able to reach out to those people who are hurting bad.”
Kraft not only provided the aircraft, he also wrote a message to each of the passengers, which was left on their seats along with a new Patriots baseball cap for everyone.
“In the wake of incredible tragedy, we have hurt for you, mourned with you and been inspired by you. It is an honor for us to now partner with you as you push for progress,” Kraft said in the note.
"Your community is stirring our country towards a better future. That is the true mark of a patriot. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. Best wishes as you prepare for takeoff on your journey."
Alex Mouscos, 16, is a Douglas student and a member of the singing group that made the trip. He was one of several students who hid in a back closet of a classroom for almost two hours with no air conditioning during the shooting.
“I found it very soothing,” Mouscos, speaking to MMQB, said of the flight. “Whenever I look out the window of a plane it calms me down. In the town where it all happened, you can’t really get away from it, but on the plane with great service and great people, for me, it definitely calmed me down.”
So much so that Mouscos, a New York Giants fan, whispered to his mother, “You know what, I think we can cut the Patriots a little bit of slack for today.”