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Circle of friends surrounds lost pal

Fourteen-year-old Ceaser Molina couldn’t contain his emotions Wednesday afternoon as he stood in a long line of mourners waiting to give condolences to 11-year-old Travis Smith’s parents.

Travis died Saturday morning, struck by a pickup while he was riding his bike near Cortney Middle School. Travis had failed to stop at a stop sign on Danica Way, near Morris Street. His death has been ruled an accident by the Clark County coroner’s office.

At Travis’ memorial service at Palm Mortuary in Henderson, Ceaser struggled to come to grips with his pal’s death.

“He was a great friend. He always made me laugh,” Ceaser said while tears streamed down his face. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over this.”

Ceaser was one of more than 100 classmates and friends of Travis from Cortney and Harmon Elementary School who attended the service.

Pastor Marvin Gant, who remembered Travis as a free spirit with a penchant for Dr Pepper, said death is a complicated issue to grasp for both young and old.

“There are a lot of questions in this room, whether you’re a young person or an adult,” Gant said to about 200 mourners. “We don’t understand these things.”

Middle school and elementary school students sat quietly and attentively during the eulogies for Travis. They cried and hugged each other as their parents sat nearby.

Kay Pickner, lead crisis response psychologist with the Clark County School District, said like adults, children and teenagers respond to death in many ways.

“They’ll laugh. They’ll cry. There will be anger. There will be denial,” Pickner said.

She said parents need to watch for any significant changes in their child’s behavior and eating and sleeping habits. Drastic changes could be signs that a child is severely depressed and might need professional help.

Pickner declined to comment on whether crisis counselors were sent to Cortney Middle School to help grieving students, but several friends of Travis said they had talked to counselors at the school.

Angie Brown, mother of a 12-year-old girl who was friends with Travis, said she and her daughter are both grieving.

“This definitely affected the neighborhood,” Brown said. “As a parent, to see your child and children go through this, it’s hard.”

Brown said she and daughter Jazmyne have been praying a lot. Brown said she’s also been telling her daughter she loves her a lot. Many parents and friends of Travis said coming together helped them grieve.

“Instead of keeping it in, it feels good to let it out,” 11-year-old Gage Coats said.

During a eulogy, Gage told the crowd that Travis brightened up the classroom.

“He used to make the whole class smile,” Gage said. “Since this happened, everybody just dropped down.”

Travis was described by his aunt Carla Taylor as a charismatic boy who wanted to be a “BMX star.” She said Travis enjoyed a variety of sports including football and skateboarding. She remembered her nephew as thoughtful, someone who would go to great lengths to give family and friends just the right Christmas gifts.

Those close to Travis want some good to come from his death.

Dave Hurlbrink, a close family friend, said children need to stay aware of their surroundings while they’re playing on the street. Drivers also need to be aware of children, although he acknowledged the driver of the Ford F-30 pickup that struck Travis, 21-year-old Pierce Thomas, had no way of avoiding the accident.

Hurlbrink was grateful for the presence of so many classmates of Travis at the memorial service. The boy’s circle of friends also made a makeshift memorial at the scene of the accident and have been visiting it every day.

“We’ve been incredibly impressed with the level of maturity these kids have shown,” Hurlbrink said. “The compassion, the love, the warmth, it’s very special to see.”

Travis’ mother Dianna Smith echoed Hurlbrink. She said the community outpouring has been more than she could have imagined.

“It makes my heart smile,” she said.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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