He was an active participant in class, had an infectious smile, and loved football. Some of his peers considered him a brother.
One by one, students and staff spoke in a schoolyard memorial Wednesday afternoon to share memories of Kade Lewin, a 12-year-old student at Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy who was shot and killed last month four blocks from the East Flatbush school.
They expressed anguish and confusion that the seventh grader’s life was cut short after an unknown gunman unleashed a hail of bullets into a car where Kade was sharing a meal with two relatives. Police officials said the shooter likely mistook Kade for someone else.
“The day I found out you will no longer be around I was crushed, and my emotions went all over the place,” said a classmate, who read aloud from a letter addressed to Kade. “Who was going to come to the deli with me? Who was going to come to the Jamaican restaurant with me to buy food? Knowing that you will not be around has created a hole in my heart.”
Kade’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.
Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Alex at email@example.com