RANDOLPH, NJ- The amazing power of the human spirit was on full display Sunday night as hundreds of teenagers converged on Freedom Park with balloons in tow. In the wake of a sudden, tragic, and "way-too-soon" loss of a teenage life, Randolph Middle School students rallied together to help each other cope and say goodbye.
Showing a maturity beyond their years, a group of eighth-graders, with the help of their parents and social media channels, planned and spread the word of an informal “balloon release” to honor and remember their friend and classmate.
For the parents, many of whom stood in the background or up on the hill, it was a heartwarming and moving scene to witness. Spread out over the basketball courts was a community of kids, coming together and carrying out the tribute almost entirely on their own. For them, it was a life lesson learned way too young.
Family members of the boy who passed addressed the crowd, expressing how wonderful it was to see the gathering, and thanking all the kids for being a special part of a young man’s short life. They explained how happy they were to live in such a compassionate community, and shared how deeply moved they were by the evening.
In a spontaneous and emotional moment, teenage friends, and former basketball and soccer teammates of the young man surrounded the family in a large embrace to support and console them.
Many brave students stood up in front of the crowd to say a few words in memory of their friend. Some were heart tugging and tear invoking, while others broke the tension with funny stories that brought laughter and smiles of good memories. Through it all, they supported and consoled one another.
With a 10-second count down, and chants of “Fly High Ty,” hundreds and hundreds of balloons were released simultaneously into the sky. There were balloons of all colors, shapes and sizes, and students wrote notes, messages, and “Fly High” on them as part of the tribute.
One of the balloons was a huge #3, representing the sports jersey number worn by the young man. About 200 feet up, the large Silver #3 balloon stopped rising, and seemed to hover in place as the others continued to rise above it. After about 10 seconds of observing the crowd below, and saying its own last goodbye, it began to rise again and floated off.