Community Mourns

Community Mourns

Students and parents throughout Ashburn were in mourning last week following the death of a Broad Run High School junior.

Ricky Roberto loved basketball and boating. He enjoyed off-road motorcycles. He loved the Yankees. He hoped to own the perfect Mustang and dreamed of becoming a lawyer. His friends remembered him as a person who was full of happiness.

"From the day he was born until the day he died, he had a smile on his face," Christy Roberto, Ricky's older sister, said at the funeral.

Hundreds of people packed into Christ the Redeemer Church Saturday to honor Ricky and to say good-bye. Friday night, luminary candles in white bags circled the football field and students bowed their heads in a moment of silence to honor Ricky's memory.

"Ricky was charming and enthusiastic," Jim Fontana, Ricky's uncle, said at the funeral. "He was full of life, filled with the same dreams, same worries and same hopes of any 16 year old."

MONDAY, SEPT. 25, shortly after 4 p.m. Ricky was driving with four other 16- and 17-year-old teenagers in his car. He made a lane change in the turn lane at the intersection of Farmwell Road and Ashburn Village Boulevard in Ashburn, said Kraig Troxell, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office. Ricky's 2003 Hyundai crashed into the back of a 2001 Eclipse driven by a 16-year-old from South Riding, Troxell said.

One rear passenger in Ricky's car was taken to Inova Loudoun Hospital before being transported to Inova Fairfax. The teenager was being treated for head injuries, Troxell said. No one else was injured in the accident.

Troxell said Ricky was charged with reckless driving and for having too many passengers in the car. It is illegal in Virginia for a 16-year-old driver to have more than one passenger at a time.

Later in the evening of Sept. 25, Ricky was found dead in his home. Neither the school nor the Sheriff's Office would comment on the cause of death, but friends and classmates reported on Web sites such as MySpace that Ricky had taken his own life.

THROUGHOUT THE WEEK following Ricky's death, grief counselors were on hand to help students cope, said Wayde Byard, Loudoun County Public School spokesperson. Tuesday, Sept. 26, counselors saw around 150 students before noon, Byard said.

"People grieve in different ways," he said. "The message is tolerance and to respect that."

Students who felt they needed additional counseling met one-on-one with their regular guidance counselor, Byard said, so they could talk to someone they knew.

Broad Run Principal Edgar Markley met with students to decide the best way to honor Ricky's memory, Byard said.

"Mainly he wants to hear the students' ideas at this point," Byard said. "Dr. Markley has a real feel for what the students really need."

The idea for the luminary bags came from students, Byard said. Members of the junior class purchased the bags, writing personal messages to Ricky on them. The candles were then lit for 30 minutes before Broad Run's football game Friday night. All proceeds from the bags will go to the Roberto family.

Byard said the school will continue to evaluate students' needs for additional counseling on a day-to-day basis.

"There is no right time to grieve, no right time for action," Byard said. "There is no timetable for grief."

WHILE FRIENDS AND family did grieve at Ricky's funeral, they also remembered the good times they had with him. Photo collages of Ricky with his friends, on his bike and posing with his sisters lined the entrance to the church. Friends wrote messages to him, saying how much they loved him and how much he would be missed.

"He was an amazing kid," Christy Roberto said at the funeral. "You just look at the pictures and you'll see."