Kade Lewin’s memorial comes amid a spate of violence, including a subway shooting in Sunset Park, Brooklyn that included several school-age victims.
Kade is one of two New York City public school students who were shot to death in the past month; a 16-year-old was killed a few blocks from her Bronx high school last week.
“We shouldn’t have to be here today. I’m tired of thoughts and prayers,” schools Chancellor David Banks said at the memorial.
“This tragedy of gun violence that is happening all around us every day is outrageous, and it is unacceptable.”
Students and staff spoke at a podium flanked by enlarged photos of Kade. Many offered condolences to his mother, who sat in the front row. A football was perched on a nearby table covered in handwritten notes to Kade.
Jonathan, a classmate since elementary school, said the pair bonded over the sport.
“The way how he smiled made me happy,” Jonathan said. “It’s not fair that you’re not even experiencing life yet, and your life is cut short because of something that wasn’t intended for you.”
Art teacher Kendra Bourne said one of her initial interactions with Kade this school year involved a frank confession: He didn’t like the subject and didn’t consider himself to be a good artist. But that didn’t stop him from applying himself and asking for feedback on how he could improve, she said.
“He did such an amazing job experimenting with new materials and expressing himself,” Bourne said. Kade often dropped by her classroom to ask how her day was going or for a piece of candy. “He was a wonderful young man to teach.”
Deon Edwards, the principal of P.S. 244, Kade’s elementary school, expressed outrage, as did some other staffers.
“It’s not fair that we work so hard, 9 hours, 10 hours, trying to help our students to achieve — and they’re responding to all that we’re doing — just for their lives to be cut short,” she said. “I’m sad, but I’m also angry.”
Kade’s classmates hope to channel some of that anger into action. They’re planning to march from their campus to the intersection where Kade was killed next month on what would have been his 13th birthday.
“This was something that was thought up by the students,” said Angela DeFilippis, the principal of Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy, the school Kade attended. “The kids are in activism mode right now.”
The district’s superintendent, Celeste Douglas, said an annual scholarship will be created in Kade’s honor for a student who “exhibits his personality and his behavior.”
As the memorial wound down, hundreds of students held vigil for Kade. Many were in tears as they clasped white candles. At the front of the schoolyard, DeFilippis helped wrangle three large green balloons filled with slips of paper containing notes to Kade.
A moment later, with the song “Make it Home” booming on large speakers, students released the balloons, and they began drifting away.