Tears and sorrow a day after Mt. Laurel student's death

The locker of an eighth-grade student who died at Thomas E. Harrington Middle School is adorned with expressions of sympathy.
The locker of an eighth-grade student who died at Thomas E. Harrington Middle School is adorned with expressions of sympathy.
Posted: May 24, 2014

It was a day of many tears and much sorrow Thursday as Mount Laurel students and faculty mourned the sudden loss of a popular eighth grader who collapsed and died during gym class the day before.

Officials had still not issued a cause of death for the 14-year-old who unexpectedly dropped to the ground while playing catch with a football outside the Thomas E. Harrington Middle School. Burlington County spokesman Eric Arpert said an autopsy was performed, but results were not yet available. The school district has not identified the student.

The district dispatched counselors to the school Thursday, district spokeswoman Marie Reynolds said.

The Burlington County School Crisis Response Team was at Harrington all day, Reynolds said. "They helped with a faculty meeting prior to the start of school at 7 a.m. and then stayed throughout the day, counseling students and staff wherever needed," she said.

Rallied by word of mouth and social media, many students at Harrington and other nearby schools wore blue, the school's color, in honor of the student and to show support for his family, or red, the boy's favorite color, according to a friend.

But neither support nor solidarity could make the hurt go away.

"It was a sad day. Everyone was crying," said Vincent Bounasissi, 14, another Harrington eighth grader. "The bus was completely silent."

The boy's locker became a memorial of sorts, covered in notes with personal messages. By the end of the day, the messages had spread to adjacent lockers, the ceiling, and the floor, Bounasissi said.

Long, too, was the thread of tweets in the boy's memory.

"He was one of the kids everybody knew," said Bounasissi.


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rgiordano@phillynews.com

@ritagiordano

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