Aaron Dunigan’s graduation should have been one of the happiest and proudest days for his mother, Katherine Jackson. Instead, it was a somber day as she wore his cap and gown to accept his high school diploma four days after he was killed in a car crash while coming home from prom.
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Dunigan, an 18-year-old senior at Illinois’ Thornton Fractional North High School, was involved in a fatal car accident early Saturday morning when the car he was riding in went over the median and crashed into another car. Aaron and the driver of the other car, 56-year-old Juan Jose Rivera, were the two causalities listed in the accident, according to Entertainment Tonight. The driver of Aaron’s vehicle, David Peden, has been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI resulting in death. A third passenger, Mike Crowter, was badly injured in the accident but is expected to make a full recovery.
“He says, ‘I love you mom, I’ll see you later,’ and I said ‘I love you too,’ and that was the last time I saw my son alive,” Jackson recalled, according to a previous report by the Inquisitr.
Tears at graduation as mom accepts diploma for son slain in wreck: Calumet City | Aaron Dunigan's mother wiped away… http://t.co/5N79xiCoDj
— South Suburbs Now (@southsuburbsnow) May 21, 2015
Dunigan’s mother opened up to NBC Chicago on her decision to walk for her late son.
“[My son] knows his mom never walked the stage,” she said, referring to her own graduation. “I’m going to be his legs and he’s going to be my wings and we’re going to go up there and get our diploma.”
Aaron, the star quarterback at his high school, was popular among his peers and was planning on playing football at Southern Illinois University in the fall.
“He loved football more than anything,” Jackson said. “It was his very first word.”
Dwayne Evans, the principal of Thornton Fractional North High School, spoke to WBIR, explaining how difficult the past week had been on the students and faculty.
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“It’s been a very tough week,” he said. “It was tough for the family, as well as for the school family.”
“He was a great young man,” Evans continued. “He had a great smile, a great presence in the building. Homecoming king. He was well liked and well known.”
On Wednesday, after Aaron’s name was called, Jackson took to the stage, wearing his blue cap and gown, to accept his diploma. She was accompanied by Dunigan’s father, who wore a black shirt with his son’s name and football number on the back. The entire crowd applauded them and then received the parents with a standing ovation.
[Photo via video screensoht]