There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.
Meredith Elizalde ran toward the gunshots. Her instinct as a mother, something in the pit of her soul, knew her son was in danger.
She had been waiting in the car to pick up her only child after a high school football scrimmage. When she got to where the gunfire was coming from, she saw Nicolas, only 14 years old, bleeding out from a wound to his chest.
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“I heard the shooting start and I didn’t know where he was, but inside as a mother I knew it. I ran to the shots. I ran to the shots and I couldn’t get him, but I held him and I felt him leave. But I was holding him. He wasn’t alone,” Elizalde said, fighting back the tears as she recalled the shooting that took her son in an interview with NBC10 on Thursday.
As the life ebbed out of her boy, Elizalde called 911, held him, touched his face, said, “I love you and I’m here.” Nicolas couldn’t say it himself, so Elizalde recited a Muslim prayer that she said means to believe in Allah and the Prophet Muhammad.
Nicolas – Nick, as she called him – was someone who fought for what he believed in but was at the same time a nonviolent, gentle soul. He loved animals and the environment. He was proud of being both a Muslim and Mexican-American in the U.S. at a time when hatred is all too frequently directed at both groups.
“I want them to know that Nick was the best son that anyone could ever ask for, that he was so special, that he never hurt anyone or anything,” Elizalde said. “He was the most gentle soul that I ever came across in my life. I’ve always said it was like raising Gandhi.”
Nicolas’ life was cut short when what police say were five gunmen ambushed a group of students following a football scrimmage near Roxborough High School. Four other teens were wounded, but police believe Nicolas was merely an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. Police believe the shooters may themselves be minors.
Nicolas’ life was full of promise. He lived in Delaware County's Haverford neighborhood and attended Walter B. Saul High School, though he played football at Roxborough High School in Philadelphia. At his request, his family was getting ready to move to Roxborough so that he could be closer to where he played his ball.
Nick had already made friends in the neighborhood, too, hanging out with them on weekends. On Thursday night, that Roxborough community came together for a candlelight vigil.
The teenager was politically active. When former President Donald Trump and his followers chanted, “Build that wall” – a rallying cry to keep out undocumented immigrants whom the former president frequently disparaged – it hurt Nicolas’ soul, Elizalde said. Yet the teen didn’t back down, instead standing up to hatred, his mother said.
Nicolas marched alongside his mother and grandmother in the name of the environment, abortion protections and gun control. When a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in the predominantly Latino city of Uvalde, Texas, Nicolas wept, his mother recalled. Nicolas hated guns and the National Rifle Association, his mother added.
Elizalde was already no stranger to gun violence. A teacher at the School District of Philadelphia, she just last year had students of hers shot dead.
Now, she wants people to remember that Nicolas was not merely a number in the ongoing count of children and adults shot in Philadelphia. And she wants legislators to take action.
“I want to tell them to stop just getting up at a podium and saying, ‘Here’s some thoughts and prayers and some useless legislation’ and shut people up. I want the Pennsylvania Legislature to do something, and by that I mean the one side that’s not doing anything,” Elizalde said.
Sitting in her home, Elizalde looked at photos of her son on the wall. One was of him as a 3-week-old dressed as a scarecrow for Halloween. As a baby, Nicolas didn’t cry. Elizalde said she knew immediately he would grow up to be special.
“There just isn’t a better, more pure human being on Earth, and that’s why God took him,” Elizalde said.