There isn't a milestone in your life quite like high school graduation. Katherine Jackson, a mother in Illinois, never experienced it herself—and now neither will her son. 18-year-old Aaron Dunigan was killed in a car crash on prom night, a mere week before his graduation, which took place this past Wednesday. In lieu of missing the graduation, his mother accepted her son's diploma in his absence, in a powerful and emotional ceremony that brought many students to tears.
Dunigan, a popular high school senior and quarterback who had plans to attend and play football at Southern Illinois University this coming fall, was one of two people killed in the prom night crash. The driver, a fellow student, was intoxicated when he drove the car through the median and into an oncoming truck. Both the truck driver and Dunigan were killed. The driver and the other student, Mike Crowter, survived the crash. Crowter managed to attend the graduation despite his critical injuries, sharing an emotional embrace with Jackson as she walked down to accept the diploma.
Dunigan had been elected Prom King and crowned mere hours before his death.
"He says, 'I love you mom, I'll see you later,' and I said 'I love you too,' and that was the last time I saw my son alive," said Jackson.
She also said that she has forgiven the student who was driving the vehicle, who has since been charged with a DUI causing reckless homicide in a motor vehicle. “I want to hold him and let him know that Aaron loves him too,” she said. “It’s nobody’s fault.”
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Images: Getty Images; NBC Chicago(3)