MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – A teammate of the students killed or injured by a man in a pickup Monday is opening up about his friends’ character and passion.
Senior Moore cross country runner Carlos Soto has been living and dying by the updates of the students since Monday.
Snowy conditions Wednesday are all that’s kept him away from the hospital since Monday evening, when he learned Rachel Freeman was killed.
“I mean, it’s just tough. Like when your teammate that you’ve known, I mean you’ve sweat so much with, you go through so much pain,” Soto said. “She had such a bright future, she was just about to go to college. Signing day was today, Wednesday.”
Rachel’s father has taken to social media since her passing, sharing a wish for those reading to “Make Rachel’s death matter by taking her life to heart, and fill the lives of those around you with joy.”
Then Tuesday, sophomore Yuridia Martinez succumbed to her injuries.
Her family released a statement saying in part, “We are living in a horrible dream that we can’t wake up from. We were blessed for 16 years with a baby girl who filled our home and our lives with joy and fun and beauty.”
“They lived to run,” Soto said. “That’s all they love to do.”
At a vigil held at Moore High School Tuesday evening, the cross country team was joined by Ashton Baza who was released from the hospital Monday with broken bones.
“You could tell he’s hurt, you can tell he remembers everything,” Soto said. “If you witness that and you still make it out to a vigil in crutches, I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know if I could. He’s strong for that.”
Soto is one of dozens of students and friends who have visited the three students still fighting for recovery in the hospital, like Joseph White.
“When I see him bleeding, broken bones, all that, I’m just like, I couldn’t. But he was like, ‘The thing that makes it easier is when people come by. When people come by, stop by, it makes the time go way faster,’” Soto said. “Whenever I saw that it was reaching other high schools, other high schools making posters, it reached national news, he said, ’It’s crazy how it spread that fast.’ He couldn’t believe it. So that was good.”
With news that Kolby Crum is still in critical condition with traumatic brain injuries, Soto is asking for prayers for his good friend.
“When you’re a team, you have moments in the locker room where it just doesn’t go outside of that locker room,” Soto said. “He told me in the locker room, he said, he’s like, ‘Running is what I love, It’s what I have.’ Me and Anthony just sat there. We were like, this is really… he loves running. He was going to go on to run in college at Redlands, and to get that taken away from him…”
Soto is again in disbelief that this week played out so differently than expected.
“He was going to sign next to me, next to Joseph, next to Rachel,” Soto said. “We were ready to sign. It’s just crazy.”
Since Monday, Soto’s grief has been mixed with guilt because he chose not to run with his friends that day. He’d heard stories of heroism by Shiloh Hutchinson, who is also still recovering from broken bones and surgeries in the hospital.
“I’m hearing stories that Shiloh helped people get out the way, like she saved lives pushing people out the way, is what I’m hearing. I’m hearing there were teammates that were hurt, that they were trying to save other people,” Soto said. “I feel like, if I was there that day instead of soccer, I could have maybe helped, you know, Rachel get out the way, or Yuridia, or other people. I just feel like I could have done something.”
Now he plans to continue running for those who won’t be able to, this season, or ever again.
“It’s going to be hard to keep running because they were always there to motivate me. Joseph always pushed me to be my best. I would never be what I am without Kolby, Joe and Rachel,” Soto said. “Rachel used to beat me sometimes. She’s fast. Their legacies will live on for sure.”
Relief funds for all the victims, for Kolby, for Joseph and for Yuridia’s family have been set up online. Rachel and Yuridia’s families have also asked that donations be made to charities benefiting causes that Rachel and Yuridia cared about.
“Don’t let this just pass by and be another news thing. This is a big thing,” Soto said. “We’re going to need you all to help out.”