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Large crowd holds vigil for South Pasadena teen

Students, teachers and community members march to the home of South Pasadena High student leader Aydin Salek, who died Sunday after attending a party where teens were drinking alcohol.

December 17, 2009|By Corina Knoll
  • Students, teachers and community members display candles during the memorial vigil for Aydin Salek.
Students, teachers and community members display candles during the memorial… (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)

Four days have passed since Aydin Salek died.

Tony Veiller, 17, a South Pasadena High School junior, tried to cope with his friend's loss by planning a vigil to honor Salek.

Salek died early Sunday, a day before his 18th birthday, after he went to a party where teens were drinking alcohol. The cause of his death is under investigation.

On Wednesday evening, hundreds of students, teachers and community members gathered outside the high school gym on Diamond Avenue. They held paper cups with tea lights and votive candles glowing in the night.

"Keep Aydin in your hearts," Veiller said.

And then everyone began to walk.

Past the school tennis courts and the aquatic center they walked. In solemn silence, they passed houses trimmed in colorful holiday lights. Cupping hands around their candles, they walked across cracked pavement and past barking dogs. The only sound came from shoes shuffling over the middle of the street.

After 15 minutes, they arrived in the 1800 block of Gillette Crescent, where friends and family members of Salek waited outside a white house.

Led by a student, the crowd softly sang the first verse of "Let It Be."

They left their candles in the driveway and greeted Salek's parents, Hamid, 50, and Azita, 48.

"Wow, such a beautiful gesture," Hamid Salek said. "I want to thank you for doing this tonight. I've never seen anything like this."

Earlier in the evening, light chatter was mixed with sniffles. Hugs were exchanged.

"His parents said the main thing they wanted was to see all the people he touched and how he affected this world," Veiller said.

Veiller's mother rented the Saleks a home a couple of years ago when the family first arrived in the city. The two teenagers had become good friends since then.

"He was just an absolutely extraordinary person," Veiller said. "He was outgoing, extremely educated. His dream was to be a Supreme Court justice."

Senior Carlos Henao said he attended to pay his respects to the young journalist who often wrote stories about his soccer team.

Henao, 17, didn't know Salek well, but he said he was saddened to learn of his death when he came to school Monday.

"He wasn't a person you could miss," Henao said, "because he was so involved in everything at school."

Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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