Father of burned child: ‘He wanted to be a doctor’
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – Outside Academic Magnet High School the American flag flies at half staff as groups of students lay flowers at an empty parking space in remembrance of the teen who took his own life by setting himself on fire.
Students have also elected to dress in red in memoriam.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, the victim’s father said his son was a patient, generous and sensitive young man that the family wanted remembered by the way he lived his life, not how he ended it.
Lt. Col. Trace Williams said his son’s lifelong passion was to become a doctor and help those who are struggling with illness and hardship the way his son Aaron did.
He did not go into details on those issues.
In the press conference, Lt. Col. Williams confirmed that his son left behind a letter explaining the anguish he was experiencing before he took his life.
“This tragic act was a complete contradiction to who he was,” Williams said of his son.
He said his son’s method of killing himself served as a final act to reach out to others who may be experiencing similar issues and telling them to live with love and compassion.
Counselors have been on the campus since 16-year-old Aaron Williams doused his clothes with an accelerant and set himself on fire in what officials believe was an attempt to take his own life.
Dr. Lisa Herring, the Executive Director of Student Support Services for the Charleston County School District, and Coastal Crisis Chaplain Rob Dewey are scheduled to hold a brief press conference to discuss how students are handling the grief, the mood in the school and their efforts at Academic Magnet.
On Facebook, a group is building support to remember Williams, commonly known as the Boom Box Kid on campus because he often carried a large boom box and played music.
Fellow students, friends and a few family members have starting filling the group’s wall with condolences and memories of their time with Williams.
“I remember talking with Aaron last year about music, and how much it meant to him. I remember him telling me about Maroon 5, one of his favorite bands,” wrote Ben Bodek, a classmate. “I hope they play Maroon 5 in heaven for you Aaron.”
“He let the JV girls soccer team borrow his boom box for a game one time so we could play some music. I remember being hesitant to ask him but then he was so generous; he was such a wonderful person,” wrote Laura George on the group’s wall.
The group has more than 1,300 members.
One of the members, Peter Cerato, posted a video dedicated to Williams.
On the campus Friday, a team of 45 grief counselors from different organizations were on hand visiting classrooms. They are remaining on the campus all day, officials said.
The school is also hosting two parent resource sessions at the Academic Magnet cafeteria. The first is being held at 4:30 p.m. The second is scheduled for an hour later.
Officials said they will be instructing parents on places to call or things to go to help their students cope with the tragedy.
Wednesday, investigators towed a car off the lot, but have said little else about the vehicle.
Williams set fire to himself around 8:20 a.m. Wednesday. Many students who witnessed the act tried to save him by putting out the fire.
He was transported to the Medical University Hospital and then flown to the burn center in Augusta, Ga. Officials there said Williams died Thursday afternoon.
Investigators have not released any information on why they think Williams committed the act.
Lt. Col. Williams said the funeral has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at Grace Episcopal Church in Mt. Pleasant.
The family is also setting up the Aaron Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund through MUSC to help children who also want to become doctors.