BN community member Russortiz attended the vigil for Nick last night in San Clemente during which Nick's Dad and Coach Mora gave emotional remarks (highlights here). We are sharing Russ's accounts in our comment thread as a guest blog post in one thread here. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
Being from San Clemente, I know what an amazing city it is. Very tight knit town, I was not at all surprised by the huge turnout for Nick's vigil. However, I was not prepared for Coach Mora's very beautiful, touching and emotional comments during the ceremony. Coach Mora's coming all the way to San Clemente to meet with the family and speak was an amazing show of class. He really won a lot of hearts on a tragic night.
My nephew brought Nick to breakfast last year and I was taken on how humble, respectful and focused the young man was. My feeling about Nick did not take long to confirm. As we pulled up to the high school parking lot it was immediately apparent that Nick's short life was not short on the impact of others. The parking lot was jammed and there were at least 5 news vans.
The mood was obviously somber but then as I walked the campus I was last on decades ago, I would see a friend who I had not talked to in years. You then wonder why it takes such an awful tragedy to share a hug with someone you care about so much about - that happened several times to me tonight. Everyone filed onto the field where Nick found so much success. The gathering was in a circle on the 40 yard line, there were hundreds of people.
Several folks close to Nick and the family spoke of a bright light extinguished far too early. The highlight for me was when Nick's father spoke. He shared some amazing stories about his son and was humbled by the crowd that gathered on such short notice. The whole time I could not understand the strength this man had, the grace he showed having just lost his son earlier in the same day. Amazing.
There has been a ton of coverage, but I will share one private story. A friend of mine was walking side by side Coach Mora as they both moved towards the field. He approached Coach and he was very gracious. My friend asked him how the team was taking the news. He shared that the team was taking the news very, very hard. He shared that he had never had this happen in his decades of coaching. He did not know how to handle it - so he called his Dad. No advice from Sr. as he had never had this happen either. I guess there is no coaches manual on how to handle such tragedies.
Coach Mora relied on his gut and his heart and represented the 4 letter in a way we should all be proud of. He spoke with heart, empathy and a genuine authenticity. Although the news camera's wanted him to be the center of attention, he never wavered from his mission of supporting the family and the 5 local UCLA players who were at the vigil as well.
Coached jumped in his car to rush up to a 9 PM all team meeting. He gathered the team together to grieve as a unit. I am sure there was more tears this evening, but I am confident we have the right man leading our program. It is amazing how every year I get further from when I roamed campus, yet the prouder I become to be a Bruin.