JOHNSTON, Iowa (KCCI) -- In middle school, no one expects to bury their best friend.
But that’s exactly what classmates at Johnston Middle School did this week after their beloved friend, 13-year-old Ali Hashim, of Granger, was struck by a pickup truck and killed while riding his bicycle.
For many of the youngsters, it’s safe to assume they’re grappling with the harsh reality of death as they huddled around a white bicycle and a small memorial -- featuring all sorts of thoughtful gifts like teddy bears, notes, balloons and soccer balls -- growing near the crash site Northwest 66th Avenue and Merle Hay Road in Johnston.
Friends and family said the eighth-grader wore a permanent smile laden with joy and excitement, something they’ll cherish now in photos and memories.
“He was an amazing person; I don’t know how I can live without him,” his best friend, Payton Fisher said. “There was never a time when I’d see Ali down.”
Words were hard to come by at a vigil held Thursday night, but hugs and candlelight filled the void.
“When he walked in the room, he just lit up,” Kai Smith-Bui said. “He was always that kid you wanted to be and everything.”
Kai recounted the terrifying night his friend was hit.
“I had a bunch of candles at my house, so I got on my bike and rode up here with his brothers,” he said. “They lit the candles and sat here for probably a couple of hours and just cried and prayed.”
The tight-knit community made buttons to show his handsome smile and spunky attitude, saying Ali was someone who never wished sadness or grief upon someone.
The Johnston children exposed to an unexpected death of a dear friend is still unimaginable for Kai, who “thought he was going to be my best friend until I died.”
Ali was laid to rest Wednesday at Es-Selam Cemetery, an Islamic burial site in his hometown, though members of the community of all ages and religions attended to pay their respects.
A memorial fund has been established to help with funeral expenses. Contributions can be made to the Ali Hashim Memorial Fund, Zion Lutheran Church, 4300 Beaver Drive, Des Moines, Iowa, 50310.
There is also a GoFundMe page, which has been authenticated by KCCI. To donate, go to http://bit.ly/2wTZ9Ki.
View the original story on KCCI's website.