"He was such a great kid," Father Bill Sweeney, the chaplain at Saint Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, told the 800 high school classmates of Daniel Fernandez, who gathered for a candlelight vigil Saturday tonight.
"That's the important thing, be good kids and remember the smile on his face."
St. Francis Prep is the largest Catholic high school in the country and it seemed like the entire student body came together not only for the vigil, but to hug one another, comfort one another, cry, pray and remember the popular Daniel:
The 16-year-old was one of 65 students on a party bus headed to a Sweet 16 party in Garfield, N.J., when he popped out of a hatch in the roof and was struck by an overpass near the George Washington Bridge -- his traumatic head injury, fatal. A security guard on the bus reportedly said he told students repeatedly not to open the hatch.
PIX11 asked one parent how she will help her son, a junior, cope. "Just be there for your children," Donna Menna replied.
In less than 24 hours of Daniel's death, more than 1,000 people joined a Facebook group honoring his life. There's talk of renaming the walk-a-thon in his memory. And many more tributes are expected for a student so well-liked.
"He was a real sweetheart. He was always smiling," Jessie West, a junior said. "He was very popular. He will be missed by a lot of people."
Menna had this advice for Daniel's grieving classmates, the same thing she told her children: "I told my kids to remember the last time they saw Dan smiling and had fun with him," Menna said.
Edited By Michelle RobinsonCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun