More than 100 people gathered on a cold Thursday evening to share their memories of a teenager whose life was cut short by a murder one year ago that remains unsolved.
Family, friends and loved ones joined together on Cedar Boulevard, surrounding a decorated tree that stands where police found Justice Afoa, then 17, around 3:40 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2010.
Many wore shirts, hats and button pins adorned with Afoa’s photos as they looked somberly down toward numerous candles that remained lit throughout the evening.
Samson Tai, a longtime friend and teammate of Afoa’s, led the crowd in a prayer shortly after 6 p.m. and shared how the former student changed his life.
“This whole year I became able to not take my family for granted because of this,” Tai said. “Show your love. Don’t sit and expect [your family] to know that you love them. Get up and give them that hug.”
Afoa’s friends and family members took turns speaking, remembering him as a friendly, dependable, happy-go-lucky teenager who was a talented football player.
Friends and teammates called him “one of a kind” and unforgettable.
Emotion rose and several wept as one cousin described the pain behind Afoa’s absence and the ongoing frustration resulting from his murder remaining unsolved.
“It hurts. Justice was like my little brother. He was a good kid, and he didn’t deserve to die like that,” she said. “The whole family misses him.”
Suvania Afoa, Justice Afoa’s mother, shared how the past 365 days have been difficult for the Afoa family but expressed gratitude for those who loved her son.
“Thanks for the support for the entire year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much,” Suvania Afoa said. “It means a lot to me, and my kids, and my family.”
The Afoa family will hold a service in memory of Justice Afoa on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward and a reception will follow at the Newark Pavilion, 6430 Thornton Ave.
Those who knew Justice Afoa are invited to attend Saturday’s services.