I remember I met Joaquin back when I was only 10 years old. He was 12 at the time. I met him through two friends of mine who were also living in Florida; Kyler Smith and Zachary Pawnes. I knew the two of them online, them both knowing Joaquin. I met him, and quickly clicked with him. We got close, despite me never getting the chance to meet him. We talked all day, nearly every day, in a dumb group chat we had had at the time. We all used to call him Chopper (as a nickname), and then Guac a few years later. I remember as a kid, when I was about 12, I used to lie to all my friends that Joaquin was my older brother (despite us looking nothing alike. I'm a short European girl and he's Venezuelan, obviously). I would tell everybody, because I looked up to him so much. I remember about four months or so later, he found out. I expected him to flip out, or be embarrassed, but he wasn't. I remember that one dumb text back after I admitted to it, when he said "sounds good to me". I honestly think it embarrassed me WAY more than it did him. From then, I got even closer to him. He was like my older brother; I really saw him as one. Years went by of drama, relationships, new friendships, but we always stayed in touch. Me, him, Kyler, Zach, and a newly formed friendship with a boy named Monte (who was three years my senior). Eventually, as I went through middle school, I slowly lost touch with all of them. Kyler first, then Zach, Monte, leaving our little clique to just the two of us (us still never had met by this point, which was when I was in late seventh grade/early eighth grade). We lost touch because of some of the drama for a few months, but quickly resumed talking after we apologized. Today, I am fifteen. Five years of my life I spent with Joaquin's presence. He filled my life with friendship, companionship, laughter, and most of all, meaning. I heard about the shooting that had killed my friend on February 15th, but I hadn't known of the victims yet. This morning, February 19th, I was doing some reading and saw he was on the list of victims. I felt my heart sank, knowing why I hadn't received a text back from him.
Joaquin was a light to the world that was robbed from everybody too young. My heart goes out to his family and local friends, and each and every person that never got the chance to meet him.
I love you buddy. Thank you.