Students remember a fallen friend

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • November 24, 2006
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - In a time of mourning the students at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School rallied together to support each other and to remember a friend. 

Michael Kim, a Grade 11 student at the Mississauga school, died Nov. 3 after being struck from behind by a  pickup truck driven by a 47-year-old man the evening before. 

Peel Regional Police said the accident happened around 5 p.m. while 16-year-old Kim was walking northbound along the grassy shoulder of Mississauga Road, near Eglinton Avenue. 

St. Aloysius Gonzaga students arrived at school the morning after the accident to find out their classmate was in critical condition with serious head injuries at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital. Throughout the day Kim's peers prayed in the school chapel for his recovery and made a get-well banner in anticipation of his return.

That afternoon the boys' football team dedicated its home game to Kim. Some individual players stuck rosaries in their socks and taped his baseball number to their uniforms while they played.

Guidance counsellor Jason Eagles coaches the baseball team, which Kim had played on for the past two years. Eagles remembers him as "a coach's dream to have on a baseball team, a quiet leader, a good teammate, easy to coach, attentive and a well-rounded young man."

"The way I knew Michael I didn't even think he wouldn't make it. He was such a tough, resilient kid. We just all wanted to see him pull through," said Eagles. 

After the game, school principal Tim Lariviere delivered the bad news. Immediately, one of the players broke the team into prayer, kneeling down in reverence. Afterward the boys stood up, huddled in a tight circle, lifted their helmets above their heads and chanted "Michael," "Michael."

"They were honouring and grieving him all at the same time," said Lariviere. "My faith was going through the roof."

Students Michael Kwon and Alex Quintos, two of Kim's close friends, were watching the game from the football stands. When they saw the principal on the field, they approached him for the latest news.  

"We just broke down. It was really tragic," said Quintos.

They sent out a several messages to their peers via MSN and cellphone calls to organize a march for Kim.

"We couldn't sit down on our computer and listen to rumours spread. We decided to gather and just like we wanted everyone to be together," said Kwon. 

Some 140 people, mainly students, met at 7 p.m. in front of the school and walked the two km to the accident site. Peel police cordoned off traffic for the impromptu march.

"I think that all of us were still in shock. 'Why am I doing this? I shouldn't be here,' " said Quintos. "I just thought he'd gone away for a vacation and I'd see him in a few days. It's hard to imagine he's actually still gone."

Despite the sullen atmosphere the boys said gathering at the accident site in Kim's honour brought students closer. 

At the site students left candles, flowers and cards. Friendly competitors in track and field, Kwon handed over a medal he'd won over his friend during a track meet.   

"Now he'll be first always, because he got to heaven before me. He'll be there to let me catch up to him," said Kwon. 

The students shared fond memories of Kim and prayed the rosary, dedicating each decade to different people including the doctors who tried to save him and his family.  

School chaplain Sr. Ursula Witkowska, IBVM, spent the day at Sunnybrook Hospital with Kim's family.

"Their faith is so incredible. I learned my theology that day. They were very positive even though it was tragic, but believing that God had a plan, that somehow Michael was going to be teaching us about life and how to live it." 

The family donated eight of Kim's organs and all were successfully transplanted. 

As for the students, Witkowska said, "there's a sadness and that's going to be around for awhile and that's OK. But we're trying to get back to a little bit of a routine."

"I personally take things slowly now. I try to absorb everything. I try to get to know everyone," said Quintos.

"It taught me that you should live your life to the fullest. Try your hardest; be what you want to become," said Kwon. 

A memorial Mass was held at St. Andrew Kim parish in the evening of Nov. 7 and the funeral Mass was held at noon on Nov. 9 at St. Joseph's parish in Mississauga.

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