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Terrance Aeriel - Online Memorial Website

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Terrance Aeriel
Born in New Jersey
18 years
81899
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For certain is death for the born And certain is birth for the dead; Therefore over the inevitable Thou shouldst not grieve. Bhagavad Gita


This memorial website was created to remember murder victims Terrance Aeriel, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, three teens murdered on August 4, 2007. The crime happened in Newark, New Jersey. You will live forever in our memories and hearts.


Slideshow

Latest Memories
Tesha Beautiful Soul December 12, 2012
It took me five years to do this  *sigh*.....I only knew him for about a month.  He was a counselor at my daughters's summer camp program at UVSO. Such a beautiful soul and I never knew all he had done in his short time until his tragic end of life.
He was so sweet, complimenting me on my car, asking if one day we could maybe hang out. Which I now regret we hadn't.  (of course he was 10 yrs. younger,which was probably why) :-) He took great care of my daughter while she was enrolled in the program untiil he passed. He was just loving, I could see it in his eyes, you could feel it.  I just wish we had more time together so I could have gotten to know him better.  I live down street from the school where this senseless act took  place and everytime I pass it, I think of him, which is everyday.  Just know Mr. T.J.,  ( that's what the kids called him, so I did too) you are missed and never forgotten. To his sister whom I never met, stay strong which I am hearing you are.  proud of you  To his friends who I never gotten the pleasure of meeting either, God knows what he is doing. Guess He felt you three served a better purpose with Him. In that big beautiful playground He has.  I didnt get to meet you down here, but we will up there.  Until then...........
Sweety Keke
As the niece of the Hightower Brothers, a pair of legendary gospel music singers from the 1960s, Io femi Hightower couldn't help but be a musician.

 

 

She did some singing as a child and had other creative outlets -- dancing and drawing among them -- but drums were her true calling. She started playing at 14, more or less teaching herself. She didn't have a drum set in the house, but drove her mother half-nuts practic ing on whatever furniture happened to be handy or watching the drummer's cult classic movie "Drumline."

 

"She would go crazy at the end of the movie, where they did the battle between the bands," said Laquinta Hightower, Iofemi's cousin.

 

At West Side, Hightower -- who went by her middle name, Sheena -- joined the marching band along with her best friend, Natasha Aeriel. Before long, Hightower be came a leader in the drum section.

 

After they graduated West Side in 2005, Hightower hoped to join her best friend at Delaware State. But the money just wasn't there -- not for an out-of-state college, not even for Essex County College, where she registered for classes but never attended because of work obligations.

 

It was a disappointment, but one she took in stride.

 

"Living in this area and surviv ing, it was never easy," said Coby Hightower, 23, her cousin. "But no matter what was going on, she al ways seemed to be happy."

Most recently, family members said she had been working two jobs: One in the kitchen at a nursing home in West Orange, where her mother is also employed, and another at Newark Liberty International Airport, where she worked for Chelsea Food Services Division, which handles meals for Continental flights.

 

It made for a long, grueling work week. Her days were spent at the nursing home. Her nights were spent at the airport, where she worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"She had a very positive atti tude and a really terrific smile," said Brian Rohlf, managing direc tor of Chelsea Food Services Divi sion. "She was very dependable and gelled right in with the team."

 

The team's job was to make sure the food service carts, ovens and dishes were clean for the next morning's flights. Her family said she saw the job as a means to an end: Money for tuition.

 

"She was someone who was really looking forward to the future," Rohlf said. "She had asked her manager recently on his thoughts for college courses."

 

According to Carlos Holmes, di rector of news services at Delaware State, Hightower was in the process of applying but had not yet enrolled. She had a few more documents she needed to supply to the university.

 

Had she done that, she would have been expected on campus by Aug. 22 for "welcome week," or orientation for incoming freshmen.

 

"She was so excited about going off to college," said Sonji Lucas, her cousin. "She had worked so hard the last two years to make it happen. She was just talking about getting away from here, going to a new environment, meeting different

people, being able to make something of herself."

 

Her cousin, Coby, said he spoke with Sheena the night before she was killed.

"We had a long conversation about school and work and all the things she was going to do," said Coby, 23. "It seemed like she finally had things worked out. The last thing she said was, 'I love you.' And I said, 'I love you, too.' And that was it."

Sweety Keke
To people who knew him -- which seemed to include a majority of Delaware State's 3,200 student body -- Dashon Harvey's campaign for Mr. Junior was classic of the guy everyone knew as "Shawny."

 

 

It was funny, enthusiastic, creative. He made posters inserting his face on a deck of cards or depicting himself as Uncle Sam telling his classmates "I want you" to vote for Dashon Harvey. He dressed up as Flavor Flav, the '80s rap icon, and stumped for votes. He distributed a campaign commercial on You Tube.

 

"He put his all into it," Ramsey said. "He won the election easily."

 

It probably helped that -- ask anyone -- Shawny was the kind of guy who was impossible not to like.

 

"He was not the life of the party. He was the party," said Judy Wade, his mother. "You could be bored out of your mind and in walks Shawny and suddenly everyone in the room would be laughing."

 

It's just the way he always was, Wade said. She and Dashon's father, James Harvey, had been steadies at Barringer High School -- their baby was born exactly nine months after her senior prom -- and Dashon was a sweet-natured boy from the start.

 

His mother loved to dress him up, and Dashon grew up with an eye for fashion and a taste for bright colors. His parents were never married, though his father re mained a strong presence. It was a source of pride in James Harvey's life that, although he never went to college, his son was on that path from the very start.

"He would come home and say, 'I got a B in trigonometry,'" said Wade, who works in a dentist office. "I would tell him a B was fine with me, but it wasn't good enough for him. He wanted to get all A's."

 

He attended University High School, a highly selective magnet school where 1,100 kids apply each year for just 150 spots. But because University didn't have a marching band, he participated in the activity at Shabazz. As a senior, he was selected as its drum major, a high honor.

 

At Delaware State, he quickly became active in a variety of stu dent organizations, even hosting his own fashion show.

 

"You always saw him around," said Jennifer Dailey, a classmate. "He was involved in everything."

 

As the newly elected Mr. Junior -- and a member of the esteemed Royal Court -- he was charged with planning a full slate of activities for the upcoming year: the Eti quette Dinner, the Winter Ball, the Freshman Pageant, and so on. It elevated his already high profile.

 

"Everyone here knew him," said Ashlee Todd. "My phone has been ringing off the hook and it's all people calling up crying."

 

His personality made him a natural in the admissions office, where he started working last year as a new student orientation assistant. He had recently been promoted to "telecounselor," which involved making phone calls to prospective students and their families and selling them on the school.

 

"He fit in perfectly because he was always telling jokes, trying to make everybody laugh," said Chris Cliette, 23, a fellow admissions office worker.

 

Harvey's various responsibilities kept him on campus most of the summer, though he did manage to sneak away for a cruise with members of his father's family --

seven days in the Caribbean.

 

He was due back in school two days after he was killed.

 

"It's so senseless," said Ger maine Scott-Cheatham, executive director of admissions at Delaware State. "It seems like such a waste. We feel we've been cheated."

Sweety Keke
For Terrance Aeriel, who went by T.J., playing in the band was just a diversion.

 

His real passion -- and true talent -- was preaching. A slew of relatives who served as pastors, deacons and elders at various area churches helped put religion in his blood. But even in a family full of churchgoers, no one could talk scripture quite like Terrance.

 

Family members said he was 6 when he began reading the Bible and quoted line and verse like a seasoned minister.

 

"He would come home from school, do his homework, then read the Bible," said Darrell Tillman, 35, a cousin. "You've never seen a kid with such a fervent love for the Word. He was very dedicated and focused."

 

Turawana Outlaw, the pastor at Higher Dimensions Worship Ministries in Bloomfield, remembers her first meeting with Aeriel 10 years ago. Outlaw worked with Renee Tucker, T.J.'s mother, and had given her a ride home. The women did not know each other well, but Tucker invited Outlaw into the house to pray.

"I saw these two small children, 8 and 9 years old, standing there," Outlaw said. "And this little boy just lifted up his hands for me to pray with him. That was the first time I began realizing this child was like no other kid I've met."

 

The family began attending Outlaw's church, and T.J. made himself Outlaw's junior assistant, often accompanying her on church business. By the time he was 14, she had him ordained as a minister.

 

It was not unusual for him to give sermons on Sundays -- even one on Easter Sunday a few years back.

 

"He had a powerful teaching ability and a wisdom that surpassed most adults," Outlaw said. "He really was a mouthpiece of God."

 

Around his peers, Aeriel wasn't known as a Bible thumper -- just an energetic, quick-to-smile kid. No one who knew him at West Side High could imagine him being in a fight, much less being killed.

 

"When someone told me Ter rance had been killed, I thought it was a mistake," said Cassandra Excme, 19, a former West Side classmate. "I just said, 'No, not T.J.' He wasn't anyone you thought would ever be in trouble."

 

To the contrary, he was the type who tried to keep other kids out of trouble, becoming heavily involved in the United Vailsburg Service Organization, a nonprofit community group with services for toddlers to seniors.

 

He served as a counselor for the after-school program and the summer program, working with elementary school children. Perhaps his most important work with UVSO came two years ago, when he was selected to be part of its youth steering committee, a group charged with recommending new programs for the organization.

 

The group identified three initiatives that deserved UVSO's attention: High School Proficiency Assessment test tutoring; SAT prep classes; and, most ambi tiously, a teen center.

 

At the meeting where the steering committee reported its findings to community members and poten tial donors, Aeriel spoke passionately about the need for the new programs.

 

"Terrance was very convincing," said Mike Farley, UVSO's executive directors. "We got several new do nors out of that meeting, and to me it was a direct result of Terrance's words."

 

There are discussions about naming the teen center after Aeriel, who was about to enter his second semester at Delaware State.

 

"He was the spearhead for that teen center," said Dale Goodwin, UVSO's director of youth and children's programs. "He just felt it was important kids had a place to go so they wouldn't just have to hang out on the street."

Sweety Keke

Terrance Aeriel played French horn. Iofemi Hightower was a drummer. Dashon Harvey had been a high school drum major.

 

It was only the start of what they had in common. They were also Newark kids, having grown up in the city and graduated from its schools. And they were Delaware State University kids, aspiring to earn degrees from the historically black college.

 

Natasha Aeriel had brought them together: She was Terrance's older sister by 11 months, Hightow er's best friend from childhood and had introduced all of them to

Har vey, a classmate at Delaware State.

 

But if you want to pick out what kept them together -- what bonded them as friends -- it was simply that they were fellow survi vors, four young adults who successfully negotiated the hazards of growing up in one of America's toughest cities.

 

And Saturday night, they were spending what was supposed to be a quiet evening together -- two guys and two girls, hanging out on the bleachers in the playground behind Mount Vernon School.

 

"They were people who were doing the right thing, going to school, being productive, working hard, thinking about the future," said Shanequa Ramsey, a senior at Delaware State. "They were doing exactly what people tell you to do in school so you don't end up like that."

 

How they ended up has become the outrage of a city, a state and beyond. While police have yet to assemble a definitive narrative, they believe a group of up to five assailants herded Terrance Aeriel, Hightower and Harvey next to a wall, shot them in the back of the head, and left them to die on the weed- cracked concrete of an empty Newark schoolyard.

 

Natasha Aeriel, 19, was also shot in the head during what has been described as a random robbery attempt. She survived and is helping police find the killers.

The three slain students were just days -- or even hours -- away from leaving Newark when they were shot. Terrance Aeriel was due at Delaware State band camp on Monday. Harvey was scheduled to start a job in the school's admis sions office the same day. Hightower was going to join them on campus in a few weeks for her freshman orientation.

 

Instead, their deaths have become emblematic of all that is wrong in a city gone mad.

 

"In a sense, it makes everyone feel like victims," said Leslie Jones, a Newark police clergyman. "When something like this happens, it touches the soul of all decent law- abiding people -- all parts of our community, all parts of the human family. When something like this happens, we realize we are all at risk."

 

Even the band kids.

Quick Gallery
Dashon Harvey was an aspring model Iofemi and Natasha were close friends Natasha and Terrance were loving brother and sister He was already an ordained minister Terrance Aeriel was 18 years old Iofemi and Terrance went to the prom together Iofemi Hightower
 
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