PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For the first time since losing her son, a Ponte Vedra Beach mother with a broken but healing heart is opening up about her loss.
Zander Laurin, 16, was hit and killed by a pickup truck driven by 53-year-old Keith Jones as the teen was running along A1A near Mickler's Landing in May, troopers said.
Laurin, a Ponte Vedra High School sophomore, was preparing for an entry test for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
"He was less than a half-mile away from home. He was less than 100 feet of being done with his run that morning. He was hauling though, it was his fastest time yet. He had finished 4.5 miles in 7.15 pace," Anna Pirgousis, Laurin's mother, told News4Jax on Thursday.
More than five months after her son’s death, Pirgousis opened up about that May morning when she was tracking her son's run.
“I was watching him on GPS, and when I saw the dot stop, I honestly thought he had a cramp because how fast he was moving,” Pirgousis emotionally explained. “Sometimes I will wake up and jump out of bed and I feel really good. Then a moment of downtime will hit me, and it is like a million pounds that will fall on my shoulders, and at that moment, I don’t know how I will get back up. I think my most difficult task is looking at my schedule and realizing 99% of it was him. In that moment, I realized I didn’t just have to move forward with my life, I had to learn to create an entirely new life, and that’s hard.”
Pirgousis also opened up about an event she's participating in this weekend. It's an event her son was part of, as well. Pirgousis trains hard at Momentum, a gym in Ponte Vedra where her son trained.
“I took over his space in July, ” Pirgousis said.
Pirgousis said she can feel her son all around her.
“The day I maxed out to squats at 205, his favorite song came on just as I was doing it," she said. "And so I felt that was his way of him telling me he was here, and 'I am proud of you.'"
In addition to being her world, Pirgousis said Laurin was her greatest accomplishment and that his 16 years on this planet made her and everything around them better. Laurin planned on joining the military.
He would often journal about life. In his own words, Laurin writes: “Life is such a fickle thing. To some it means the world, to others it means nothing.” He goes on to say, “A sheepdog is someone who’s willing to sacrifice all to protect the herd.” Zander ends that particular journal entry with a declaration, followed by a question: “I am a sheepdog. What are you?”
“He was very empathetic, and he believed in second chances,” Pirgousis said.
The event that Pirgousis has been training for is the Wounded Warrior Project Carry Forward 5K, which is happening Saturday at the organization's headquarters on Belfort Road. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the race starts at 8:30 a.m.
Pirgousis said she has given a lot of her son's belongings to his friends and donated a lot of his clothes to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts for the Bahamas.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Laurin's death is still under investigation.