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Still in our hearts 20 years later

— We all carried Nick with us in our own ways, especially Harry Evans, Nick’s best friend from about first grade on. Harry, now a pilot and an officer in the U.S. Navy, has done everything he could to keep Nick’s memory alive.

“In seventh-grade Spanish, I took the name ‘Nicolas’ as my name to kind of keep him around, and I kept it until 11th grade. When I got my class ring from the [naval] academy, I got his initials engraved on it, so he could be with me wherever I was going,” Harry said. “My biggest thing is having anything, even something small, from the ring to staying in contact with his family, so I can still have him in my life as if he was still here.”

The memories continue to bring a smile to Harry’s face.

“I think my favorite memory is when Nick, Tommy Lincoln, Matt Jones, and I played Pretty Pretty Princess against [Nick’s little sister] Jennifer and beat her,” Harry said. “That picture hangs in my office and always brings a smile to my face.”

And Nick’s own smile has stayed with us, too.

“Everything that we did as kids, whether it was racing toy cars in the halls of his house, sitting in first communion classes, playing video games, everything, even up to the last time I remember seeing him in the hospital, Nick was always smiling,” Tommy Lincoln said. “I will always remember his smile, and laughter. I am pretty sure that everyone that knew him was in the presence of an angel.”

Childhood came to an abrupt end that summer for a lot of us. We were forced to face our own mortality, forced to grow up and acknowledge that we weren’t sheltered from the real world.

So we grew, and we graduated. We got jobs and got married and a lot of us had kids of our own. But we still remembered.

When I think of summertime in my youth, I think of Nick — running around in the neighborhood, Nick in the same shorts he’d wear in the dead of winter, carefree and laughing and so terribly young.

We still miss you, Nick. And we’ll always remember you.

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