ONTARIO, Calif. -- The first day back from Winter Break at Ontario High School is a little different for some students. It's a little quieter, a little slower and a little lonelier.
This is where the youngest of nine victims in the Christmas Eve Covina tragedy was a senior. Michael Ortiz, 17, was poised to graduate in the spring. The varsity baseball standout was a team captain, team pitcher and team hitter, according to coach Chris Romero.
"He was our best guy," Romero said. "On the field is secondary. He'll be missed on the field, for sure though, and for his leadership."
Romero said teammates have come to him with tears in their eyes.
"There's not much you can tell them. Their eyes are watered up. It's been two weeks, but Mike's not next to them, standing by the locker. It's going to be tough," Romero said.
Ontario High Principal Rob Hust says Ortiz's parents played a major role in his studies, always making sure he was making the grade. Ortiz's mother, Alicia Ortiz, died in the fire. His father, an older sister and a younger sister managed to escape.
The tragedy on the evening of Christmas Eve still has the Covina community in shock. Police say Bruce Pardo, upset over a divorce that ended a week prior, dressed like Santa Claus, showed up at his ex-in-laws home in Covina and unloaded four hand guns. Witnesses who escaped the home told 911 operators Pardo shot some of his victims at point-blank range. He then set the house on fire with a homemade flamethrower before committing suicide.
"It was pretty sad what he did, especially cause it's family," said one student at Ontario High.
Another, a senior with Michael Ortiz, says he'll miss the camaraderie on campus. "It was sad cause he was a cool kid," said Osvaldo Ramirez. "I never thought this would happen to him."
Grief counselors and psychologists will be available to students all week and as long as they're needed. The Associated Student Body is working on a fundraiser for Michael Ortiz's relatives who died in the incident.
"You can't make the sense out of this," said Principal Hust. "We'll just move forward with our kids to get beyond it."