LEWISTON — A ring of several hundred people formed at Lewiston Middle School on Wednesday night in memory of 13-year-old Rayan A. Issa, who drowned during a field trip a day earlier.
As the boy’s classmates got up to speak about their lost friend, a theme quickly emerged.
Rayan was always nice, said a sobbing girl in a red T-shirt. Always comforting and always kind.
He wanted others to be happy, said another friend, who wore a bright-red head scarf. He wanted those around him to be at ease.
“He was always there for everyone,” said Kaylani Castillo, a friend and classmate who had known Rayan since the fifth grade. “He would make jokes and talk to you. He wanted to make people smile no matter what was going on.”
For about an hour Wednesday night, it looked like the school lawn had been painted bright red. Roughly 300 people turned out for the vigil and they came in red T-shirts, red head scarves, red hooded sweatshirts and red caps.
When the moment of silence was over, they released a cluster of balloons into the sky and the balloons, of course, were red.
“It was his favorite color,” School Superintendent Bill Webster said.
For the teachers and administrators, students and families of Lewiston Middle School, it was the third time in 18 months that they gathered for such a sad affair.
In May 2017, a 13-year-old student died of suicide in her home. In November of that year, a 13-year-old was struck by a car and killed on Main Street.
And now this.
“Our community,” said parent and School Committee member Linda Doucette Scott, “has lost another shining star.”
School officials said that grief counseling is being made available for students who are having trouble coming to grips with yet another lost classmate. Scott advised the students, parents and others Wednesday night to also lean on one another.
“Always remember,” she said, “that we are one community. We are one family.”
There is comfort in that, Castillo said.
“It’s really hard dealing with this,” she said. “But everyone is supporting one another, and that helps.”