Jena Meaux threw herself in front of her best friend as a gunman began firing into their crowded movie theater, allowing the friend to crawl to safety and pull a fire alarm that may have saved even more lives.
In the wake of the Lafayette movie theater shooting, the two teachers are being hailed as heroes, a light of hope in a tragedy that claimed two lives and shocked a nation already reeling from a series of other mass shootings.
Jena Meaux is a librarian at Jeanerette High School and her friend, Ali Martin, is an English teacher. The two went to a 7 p.m. showing of the comedy Trainwreck but about 20 minutes into the movie a man identified by police as John Russell Houser stood up and began firing.
But the teachers, who had been trained in what to do during an active shooter situation, were unflappable in their response.
“Their training as a teacher went into full effect when this happened,” Cammie Maturin of the Iberia Parish Teacher’s Association told the New York Daily News. “They did what they knew that they had to do. Ali even knew where the fire alarm was. She was knowledgeable enough even after being shot to do that.”
Their actions even caught the attention of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who visited victims on Friday and has implored people to look at the stories of heroism rather than dwelling on the motives of the shooter.
“One of the teachers jumped on top of the second teacher in an act of braveness,” Jindal said at a news conference Thursday night. “A lot of folks in that situation would just be thinking about themselves. She had the presence of mind to think, alright, even though she was shot in the leg she saved other people.”
Both Jena Meaux and her friend Ali Martin were shot in the leg, and are both expected to recover. But they have a long recovery ahead, and friends are now trying to help out. Maturin started a GoFundMe page to help them recoup salaries they will have lost during the recovery period and pay for medical expenses.
“School starts in just two weeks, so funds will also go toward assisting them recoup any wages lost during their recovery absence. The Iberia Association of Educators will collect all donations and divide the funds among the two women. We will be sure to present them with each donor’s name, as well as the amount donated so that they are aware of the love and support pouring in from across the country.”
Iberia Parish Superintendent Dave Henderson called both Jena Meaux and Ali Martin heroes, telling the Daily Advertiser, “when they sense there is going to be some kind of danger or emergency situation, they go into teacher mode.”
[Image via Facebook]