Thursday, June 19 2014, 12:52 PM CDT
Mother of high school shooting victim shares her story
TROUTDALE, Ore. -- A mother who lost her son in last week's Oregon school shooting says she does not know how her family will ever be the same again.
Police say 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman was shot and killed by another student last Tuesday.
Hoffman's mother, Jennifer, explained how she is dealing with the heartbreak of losing her son.
Jennifer Hoffman sees her son, Emilio, in a way only a mother can see her son.
As she looks at her son's photo, she beams with pride. She remembers the conversation she had with him about the expression on his face.
"We talked about why didn't you smile. He said we had to be tough," she remembered. "I guess that's his tough look. I love it nonetheless."
It's the last image Jennifer has of Emilio. But what keeps replaying in her mind is the day he died.
"We flew to the school. We had a couple of phone calls. Get there," she said.
Jennifer said she told Emilio she loved him before he left for Reynold's High School that morning.
Less than an hour later, she found herself on campus after reports of a shooting.
"We tried to walk up by the tennis courts and the officers told us everybody has to go to the church. So we went to the church, and we waited, and we waited. And i text and I called," she said.
All Jennifer could do was watch and wait as hundreds of kids filed out of school with their hands up.
Emilio would not be one of them.
"It was the most horrific thing I've ever seen. But I stood there and I watched every kid come out of that school," Jennifer recalled. "It didn't occur to me, I mean I knew that the schedule was flipped upside down that day for finals, but I still thought Emilio was in the art building. Until somebody said no, he was in PE, he was in the gym, too. That's when I was worried because the kids in the gym were the first kids out and I didn't realize that."
Two hours later, Jennifer got the news.
Police pulled her into a room at the church across the street where she had been waiting and told her Emilio was killed by a classmate.
"Disbelief. Anger. I just wanted to leave. I didn't know what to do. Somebody asked for my keys, one of the officers, and I threw them at him," she said. "I didn't feel like I had any control over anything at that point. You just told me I've lost my son, you won't let me drive."
Now the family is left to deal with what the tragedy has done to them -- a question the mother says she does not know how to answer.
"I don't know how we're ever going to be the same. I don't know how we're going to do that. We have to. I have four biological children and three other kids I love equally," she tried to explain.
Emilio was part of a big family -- Jennifer's oldest biological son -- and a brother to three foster children.
Jennifer has dedicated her life to being a mother -- Now part of that has been taken away.
"I love kids. I've always wanted a huge family. My love for kids is probably like my number one thing," she said.
Jennifer loves all of her children, but Emilio was her first born.
"Emilio was funny. He was smart. He could turn the academics on or off," she said.
Now, Jennifer holds on to Emilio's memories, conflicted about her loss. And the fact that she will never know why Jared Padgett killed her son.
"I have always been the person that believes everything happens for a reason and I can't find a reason for this," she said, adding that she can not make sense of it. "I can't. I want to because I need to, but I can't."
Jennifer says she is now preparing for Emilio's memorial service. It is set for this Sunday and is open to the public.
Police say 15-year-old Jared Padgett shot and killed Emilio Hoffman, then wounded a PE teacher, before taking his own life.
Investigators have not named a motive and say there is no link between Padgett and his victims.