Mt. Olive Teens 'Loved Life, Loved To Laugh'
Friends of Nick Novaky and Neil Solanki continue to pay their respects by the side of the road where the teens lost their lives in fatal car crash a few days before the graduation ceremony Novaky was due to attend.
The temperature around the canopy of trees at the crash site is cool, even though the temperature of the new summer season approached triple digits. Vehicles slow and stop as they approach, faces inside etched with pain, eyes brimming with tears.
A line of cones and signs prohibit parking along that stretch of Wolfe Road, but it didn’t stop a steady stream of mourners who made the pilgrimage from the Village Green apartments to grieve at the spot where 18-year-old Nick Novaky and 19-year-old Neil Solanki died in a car accident Tuesday night.
While the cause of the accident is still under investigation, and the prosecutor’s office believes speed was a factor, none of that mattered to those who came to find sense in the senseless. All that mattered, was that the two boys they loved were gone.
“This is about two boys who loved life,” Alissa Okrent said. “I didn’t know Nick. I am close family friends with Neil’s family and Neil lived for the moment. He was always laughing. Laughing and joking with his friends.”
Karlene Rattner knew Nick. In fact, she knew him since birth.
“I’ve known him since he was born,” Rattner said. “I used to babysit him and his brother. Everyone talks about how friendly he was. He was one of those kids who was friendly to everyone.”
Small momentos pepper the site of the crash. A football helmet and baseball bat for Novaky. A speaker and guitar for Solanki. Photos, cards, candles, notes and flowers for both.
“Neil was a DJ,” Okrent said. “Did you know that? As you can see these are two people who will clearly be missed.”
Novaky was set to graduate in Thursday’s commencement at Mt. Olive High School, and while a moment of silence was observed, one mother, who declined to provider her name, said her son and his fellow graduating classmates were told that it was still a celebration of their graduation.
“Which is what Nicky would have wanted,” she said.
“Absolutely. Neil would have wanted the celebration to go on,” Okrent said.
According to Rattner, Facebook posts from friends and teammates tell the story of lives cut short.
“He was just a great kid," Rattner said.
Okrent said she keeps thinking of the nights having Chinese food with Solanki and his family, all of them laughing around the table.
“Neil loved his family. Family was everything to him,” said Okrent, whose son Mark has been with Neil’s sister Jenna since he heard. “They are best friends."
Okrent motions to a smiling photo of Solanki propped against the tree and can’t help but smile slightly.
“Look at that smiling face. That was Neil,” Okrent said. “He just loved life.”
The same was true for Novaky, whose absence at graduation will be felt by more than just his classmates.
“This graduating class has one missing,” Rattner said.