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Friends, family memorialize slain teenager with balloons

September 17, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Written in Sharpie on the red and white balloons were messages you might find in a yearbook, inside jokes and snatches of reminiscence cryptic to all but the friends of Justin Brady, the Enfield High School junior who was stabbed to death last week.

More than 100 of his friends, classmates and family members gathered Sunday on the town green to release several dozen balloons covered in messages and scribbled memories.

The balloons were red and white, Justin’s favorite colors, friends explained. Some of them wore T-shirts screen-printed with Justin’s likeness, the dates bookending his brief life arcing overhead.

Mohammad Ejaz was in sixth grade and had just moved from New Jersey when he met Justin five years ago. He “took me in,” Mohammad explained, introducing the kid from New Jersey to his circle of friends. “Every new kid that came, he’d do the same.”

The two grew closer last school year, when they were enrolled in the same English and Spanish classes. Ejaz said he’ll miss his friend’s humor.

“He was clumsy and funny,” John Jackson, another friend, chimed in.

Justin was found stabbed to death the morning of Sept. 10. An 18-year-old Hartford man, Shyhiem Adams, has been charged with manslaughter. When Adams was arraigned last week, a judge expelled several people from the courtroom for shouting obscenities at Adams and a brawl erupted outside.

“A lot of us are really young, and I know you want to turn your sadness into anger,” Brianna Barstis, a friend of the Brady family and recent Enfield High School graduate, told the group Sunday. “But that doesn’t help Justin. That doesn’t help his family.”

They counted to three and loosed their balloons. Everyone stared upward, watching them grow smaller. A voice sobbed that it missed Justin, but all eyes were trained up, on the balloons shrinking to pinheads. Then they turned to each other, and saw some of them were crying.

Earlier that day, five of Justin’s closest friends gathered quietly on the school’s football field. He would’ve played five games there, jersey No. 71, as a center and defensive end on the varsity football team. They wrote something on four balloons and let them go.

One of them, a red one, must have been heavier. It lingered longer than the others.

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Online: https://cour.at/2NUhCya

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Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com

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