While Alex Teves' family is in Colorado making funeral plans for their 24-year old son, friends here in the Valley try to find comfort remembering the boy who grew up in the Phoenix suburb of Ahwatukee.
It was fitting that his last hour was at a midnight tribute to a super hero.
"He was a comic book geek," said classmate and longtime friend, Rowan Benedict. "He loved comic books his entire life."
This week, Benedict returned to the halls of Desert Vista High School, where he and Teves first met in 2004.
We walked into a brightly lit room on the second floor.
"This is the English Department classroom," he said, panning the room. "I sat here in the first row...Teves sat there in the sixth."
Benedict's mother, Deb Benedict, was their teacher in 2007.
"I had Alex in honors American Studies and I had [Benedict] in that class, so that's how Alex and [Benedict] became friends," she said.
Being the teacher's son, Benedict knew what his mother tolerated from her students.
"[Teves] made some joke that made us all laugh," he remembered "And I thought, ‘Okay, I like this guy.'"
Having taught for several years, Deb Benedict said Teves always showed respect for his teachers and compassion for his classmates.
"He would sit very quietly, but confidently in the back rows," she recalled fondly, and when he was called to the front of the class, "He would always include super heroes into his stories, and we could just see his personality come to life when he would read to the class."
Like the super heroes he admired, Teves was known on campus for his consistency and wearing a favorite "uniform."
"Every day, he wore blue jeans and a white T-shirt," said Rowan Benedict.
His statistics and Spanish teachers, Francoise Dastous and Maggie Fountain, also remember.
"One day, we decided to dress like Alex," recalled Dastous.
Like a comic book gone viral, Fountain remembered how fast the idea took off. "His friends would wear it on Friday and then senior year they all dressed like him."
With his clean white T-Shirt and rolled up jeans she laughed, "He looked like he belonged in Grease!"
When the latest Batman movie, The Dark Night Rises, opened at a midnight showing, Benedict knew where his old friend would be.
"I knew he was at a Batman show," he said, with a faint smile. "I mean, he got me to go to my first midnight showing of Spider Man."
Late Friday night, 24 hours had passed before he realized his friend had been the true hero in an Aurora, Colorado theater. Teves dove to cover his girlfriend Amanda Lindgren as a gunman opened fire inside the packed movie theater.
"My baby didn't hesitate," Lindgren wept as she recounted the nightmare to reporters outside the theater, "I was very confused and he didn't hesitate. He protected me."
It was no surprise to Benedict.
"He was fiercely loyal," he said of Teves. "He would do anything for the people he loved."
The thought of losing his longtime friend hits him in the gut, "Uhm..." He took a gulp. "It's just sad...you know, he was a great guy."
Like any good mother, Deb Benedict tried to stop the pain by recalling happier moments with her former student Teves.
"He was..." she starts, then corrects herself, "He has a wonderful sense..." she stopped herself and begins again, "Had a wonderful sense of humor!"
She found it hard to hold back the tears herself when asked about the difficulties of referring to Teves in the past tense, "It is really hard..." she started to say, then with a gulp lets her own tears flow.
"He was a wonderful person," she sniffed. "And it's so hard to see such a great kid, his life end so early for no reason."
Funeral services for Alex Teves will be held in both Colorado and Arizona.
Condolences can be sent to the Teves family via Desert Vista High School, 16440 S. 32nd St., Phoenix, 85045. The school can also be reached at (480) 706-7900.
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