Friends, family grieve for boy killed in Heidelberg
HEIDELBERG, Germany — James Long Jr. and his wife, Andrea, couldn’t bring themselves to go to the homecoming game where their son, Maurice, was being honored.
They wanted a chance to cry while not in the presence of their other children.
“We’re the ones who are supposed to be strong,” the father said by telephone. “But we’re not being strong right now. I’m breaking down.
“I don’t know how to describe it to you. It’s unbearable. It’s a hurting feeling.”
Friends wearing custom-made T-shirts with Maurice’s likeness honored the 12-year-old on Saturday with a moment of silence before the Heidelberg-Gen. H.H. Arnold high school football game at Patrick Henry Village.
Maurice, a seventh-grader at Patrick Henry Middle School, was killed Wednesday at the end of the Heidelberg High School homecoming parade. According to witnesses, he was run over by a flatbed truck carrying the ninth-grade prince and princess and other students.
Maurice was aboard a non-motorized scooter and holding on to the side of the truck when he fell under the truck, witnesses said. People aboard the truck were throwing candy to spectators, and some kids were gathered around the still-moving truck as the parade ended.
Maurice died on the scene, witnesses said. A German police report said it appeared he hit his head on the curb, but the exact cause of death was not known pending autopsy results.
“I can’t even describe how I felt when I saw him on the street,” said James Long III, 16, Maurice’s older brother. “It’s like my whole life turned upside down in minutes.
“One minute I’m watching him do his homework, the next minute he’s lying lifeless in the street.”
James Long Jr. said the family went to church every Sunday. On Monday, they read together a verse from the Bible. Asked which verse, he went to his Bible and found Maurice’s school pencil still marking the page.
“We’re sick, devastated,” his father said. “He’s 12 years old and he still liked to be tucked in at night, given a good-night kiss, and he’d say ‘I love you, Mom and Dad.’”
The father, a warrant officer 3 at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, V Corps, said when he asked his 4-year-old daughter, Anna, if she realized when she’d next see her brother, she replied, “When I get to heaven.”
“That was her best friend in the world,” he said. “And she saw what happened.”
Maurice’s grieving friends built a small shrine for him outside the middle school and held a candlelight vigil on Thursday.
“There’s nothing that makes that pain go away right now,” said Jennifer Rivera, 14, who was riding on the truck that ran over Maurice. “Everyone’s saying ‘We’re all right, we’re all right,’ but it’s not. It’s something [people] will carry with them their whole lives.”
Maurice loved Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson, the singer Beyonce and barbecue-flavor sunflower seeds. Most of all, he loved basketball.
His older brother said the Heidelberg community has been helpful, especially toward a family that had been in town for only six months after spending three years in Fort Campbell, Ky.
“The past couple of days, we’ve had support from people we don’t even know,” James Long III said. “The church is cooking dinner for us the rest of the week. People I don’t even know, I’m being comforted by.”
A disconsolate James Long Jr. said that parents should never outlive their children.
“I just don’t know how I’m going to find the strength,” he said, “to take my son, put him on the plane to Fort Campbell, Ky., and bury him.”