In her late son’s cap and gown, Katherine Jackson sat among graduating students at Thornton Fractional North High School Wednesday.
“[My son] knows his mom never walked the stage,” she said. “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.”
Jackson’s son, Aaron Dunigan, was one of two people killed in a south suburban Chicago car crash while on his way home from prom over the weekend. The 18-year-old football quarterback died when the car he was riding in, which was driven by his friend, crossed a median and crashed into another car.
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The crash also killed the driver of the other vehicle, 56-year-old Metra employee Juan Rivera, who was on his way to work at the time.
David Peden, who was driving the vehicle Dunigan and a classmate were riding in, was later charged with DUI causing death and reckless homicide with a motor vehicle.
The third teen in Peden’s vehicle, Mike Crowter, was badly injured in the crash.
The three classmates were scheduled to graduate Wednesday and were returning from prom at the time of the crash.
Crowter was able to attend the school’s graduation ceremony, arriving in a wheel chair.
“It was prom night,” said classmate Keshawn Harrison. “Just wasn’t supposed to end like that.”
Dunigan, who was preparing to play football for Southern Illinois University in the fall, was honored and mourned at the ceremony by friends and family.
“This has to be a moment of celebration and learning,” the school’s superintendent Creg Williams said during the event. “Let their incident not be in vain. Be safe.”
“I just wish he was here so we’d all celebrate together,” said student Jasmine Bailey.
Dunigan’s mother took his place in the ceremony, walking up to the stage to accept her son’s diploma.
“All of this was divinely orchestrated by my son,” Jackson said.