ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Family and friends of a teenager hit and killed last week on his way to school gathered Wednesday night at the St. Augustine Amphitheater for a farewell memorial.
Ja Williams was on his skateboard when he tried to cross four lanes of traffic on Anastasia Boulevard last Thursday. The driver of the SUV who hit the 16-year-old said he didn’t see Williams until it was too late.
On Friday, St. Augustine business owners lined the highway with blue ribbons, the blue color a nod to the nearby ocean Williams adored.
At least 50 people came by the memorial Wednesday night to share stories and support each other as they mourned and remembered Williams.
“(He was) nice, kind, funny," teacher Amy Arnow said. "He was described as a firecracker by many teachers."
Many friends and family said they remember Williams' unforgettable smile and contagious spirit.
“A lot of people knew him, because he was always skateboarding everywhere and his brothers owning coffee shops. I’m sure he was there and knew all those friends from those coffee shops,” Arnow said.
The 16-year-old went to St. Augustine High School and was very involved in the community.
He volunteered for Velofest, an organization that has been working for years to make roads safer for bicyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians.
Heather Neville, who runs Velofest, said Williams was a bright, energetic teenager. She said his death is a wake-up call to everyone that this should not happen again.
“This isn’t just another person that has been killed,” Neville said. “When you see community leaders showing up, this is going to be something that will create the change.”
Neville said Wednesday's memorial was important for family to feel an outpouring of love and support from the community and to show how much Williams touched others.
“It was somber, but all the stories are starting, and there is laughter, and there are children there, and nieces and nephews and relatives and friends, so it’s good,” Neville said. “It’s a good thing, and it’s a celebration of his life. He was well-loved by his family and friends.”
Williams' family asked that instead of flowers, the community send donations to Velofest to help spread awareness and change legislation for everyone on the roads.
To donate, go to velofest.org/sponsors/how-to-give.