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'They Started and Ended School Together': Remembering Bailey Holt and Preston Cope

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

She wore black Converse shoes and Louisville Cardinals sweatshirts and loved classic rock. He played on the high school baseball team and enjoyed history and the outdoors. They were 15. They were Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope. They started school together and they ended school together. They were killed in a shooting spree at Marshall County High School on Tuesday, January 23.

Police say a 15-year-old student opened fire in the commons area as school began for the day. A total of 16 were shot and others were injured. Bailey Holt died in the school and Preston Cope died after being transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

The suspected shooter is alive. While the police have not revealed his identity, it's been widely circulated on the Internet by people who say they know him. The suspect has been ordered held on preliminary charges of murder and assault in juvenile court. Prosecutors want to try him as an adult. The case goes before a grand jury on February 13.

Bailey Holt and Preston Cope both died from gunshot wounds Tuesday after a shooter opened fire at Marshall County High School.

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On Saturday, hundreds of family, friends and classmates waited in the rain, in a line that wrapped around the the high school, to share memories and say goodbye to Bailey Holt and Preston Cope.

Members of the media were asked to respect the families' wishes to not record the visitation. Instead, Bailey Holt's aunt Tracy Tubbs and Jackie Reid, who is the principal of Sharpe Elementary where Preston's mother Teresa is a teacher, spoke on behalf of the families in a press conference. See a video of this conference on the WKMS Facebook page.

Reading a statement on from the Holt family, Tubbs said Bailey's parents want the world to know that at 8:10 a.m., when shots began, Bailey made a call to her mom Secret. But by the time her mother had answered it was too late. Bailey was gone. Tubbs said the family is comforted in learning that she did not suffer and that she had been surrounded by staff trying to help her in her final moments.

Credit Matt Markgraf/WKMS
One of many decorations near the entrance to Marshall County High School

"How great our Lord and Savior is. He chose us to have this beautiful creature in our lives for 15 short, but magnificent years," She read. While angry and feeling gut-wrenching grief, she said the act of violence intended to inflict pain had done the opposite. "Only reinforcing our family and friends and community to simply say: 'Not today Satan. You've picked the wrong community and definitely the wrong family.' Our faith in our community has been restored and our faith in our Savior reignited."

"We will get through this and we will be more like Bailey going forward. We will hug tighter. We will love harder. And we will be more present with our families," Tubbs read.

Her aunt described her as "a sweatshirt kind of girl" who wore jeans and Converse shoes and was comfortable in her own skin. She was quiet, easy to love, salt of the earth. She loved classic rock like AC/DC and Van Halen and like spending time with her cousins. She and her family are University of Louisville Cardinals fans. Tubbs said she'll be buried in a Cardinals sweatshirt and thanked the university for supporting the family.

Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Jackie Reid said Preston Cope was a member of the Marshall County Baseball Team. She said the family will remember fondly the time his team got to play at the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium. She said he loved history and the outdoors and went on a family trip to Gettysburg. 

Tracy Tubbs said the Holt family is appreciative of the gifts and outreach from across the nation. She held up artwork someone had sent of Bailey. "It's something we'll treasure forever," she said.

The women said they had recently come across a photo of Preston and Bailey next to each other in Kindergarten, "They started school together and ended school together," Tubbs said.

When asked how the family would define the trending hashtag #belikebailey, Tubbs said, "To just be kind, simply be kind. To love your family more. To hug tighter, to put down your cellphones at dinner and have real conversations to be friends with everyone. It's easier to be kind than to be mean."

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