PHOENIX -- Before American journalist James Foley was a reporter, he was a teacher at Lowell Elementary School in Phoenix.
Foley is the journalist who was recently killed by ISIS.
Wednesday night, he was remembered by a group of his former students who say even though Foley taught them some 20 years ago, he was still part of their present-day lives.
"He'll come pick us up and he'll take us out to eat, just random gestures like that that he would do out of nowhere," said former student and friend Jose Carrizoza.
Carrizoza says the seventh grade gang would get back together when Foley was in town. But Wednesday's reunion was very different from the rest.
Students met at Lowell Elementary to read messages and cry together, remembering the man who was their mentor.
"He was a good guy. He stayed in touch. He made the effort to stay in touch with us," Carrizoza said.
Foley was a history teacher, basketball coach and father figure to these young men.
"He was just there in my life at a tough time. He was a father figure. A lot of us don't have two-parent homes," said former student Eddie Martinez.
Martinez saw Foley two years ago, the day Martinez got married.
The teacher continued to mentor his students over two decades by phone, text and Facebook.
"It's a nightmare. It's not real to me right now," Martinez said. "I just think I'm going to wake up tomorrow and this is all going to be gone."