Well, let’s start out by saying that everyone’s hero is now in heaven. The person who gave everyone the will to keep going, the strength you gave everyone in the 518, and the impression you made in everyone’s heart will live on forever.
Niko Strong is what we all live by now.
On October 28th, a good friend, Niko, had gotten into a serious car accident while being in the passenger seat of a car that was driven by a friend who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol while speeding. The car veered off the road crashing into two other vehicles and making all three crash into a restaurant called Blessing Tavern, Niko suffered third-degree burns on 95% of his body and was flown to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York. Niko had a 1% of surviving these injuries but 16 months later he was still fighting for his life in the burn unit of Westchester Medical.
Through the dozens of surgeries, Niko went through he defied all odds... Until March 19th when our champ was no longer in pain and could rest peacefully with God. After laying in a hospital bed for 16 months straight missing out on all of the things his friends were doing, he can now watch over all of his friends and family. Even those who never met Niko were impacted by his strength and willpower to keep fighting for his life.
I personally knew Niko. We went to the same middle and high school, no matter what kind of day you were having you could talk to Niko and feel better instantly. He had that unique personality that would cheer anyone up just by talking to him for a minute and that contagious smile that would light up every room whenever he walked in.
It was the beginning of my senior year when the accident happened on the weekend of Halloween, I remember waking up to get ready for work. I was already feeling bad because I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out so my face was still swollen. As always, I checked all of my social media before I did anything and my Snapchat and Twitter were filled with different things such as, “Everyone keep Niko in your prayers” and “I love you Niko you can get through this.” At first, I had not known what was going on until a little later when the news came out with what had happened... Not knowing what was going to happen, if Niko was going to make it or not.
I remember walking in the halls after the second bell would ring meaning you're late and I would see Niko in the hall and I’d yell at him and say “NIKO GET TO CLASS” and him saying back “YOU GET TO CLASS LYSS.” It was a reoccurring thing we would do and the smile on both of our faces was priceless and that is the last memory I had with Niko.
You spent your 17th birthday in the hospital along with two Christmas', two Halloween's, and two New Years', Every holiday after October was spent in Westchester for you and your family. I lived for reading the updates on the Pray For Niko page from his aunt Davina to see how he was doing and when the next surgery was and what they’d be doing. Unfortunately, Niko’s surgery in January left him with some brain damage and the inability to move his arms and legs anymore.
Niko was the type of boy to act hard on the outside but was the sweetest boy ever with the biggest heart in the world. If you ever needed someone to talk to, you could always go to Niko.
March 19th at 5:47 PM, Niko went to heaven surrounded by his family. The amount of people that Niko has impacted through his story is truly amazing. Niko is no longer in pain, although all of our hearts are heavy and are hurting because he’s gone. We all know he’s in a better place and watching over all of us. So now, instead of Pray For Niko, we're all "Niko Love," sharing all of our Niko gifts even if a Niko gift was just getting inspiration from Niko’s story.
This accident was a tragic and sad accident that brought a community closer together, learning from Niko how to love each other unconditionally and to NEVER take anything for granted. Please, always tell your friends you love them and how much they mean to you. You never know the last time you’ll get to see them again.
This is also a lesson to not drink and drive, either. You can lose everything in the blink of an eye and your life is changed forever. If you’re looking for inspiration or if you look or feel like you can’t keep going anymore, read the articles about Niko and keep him in the back of your mind.
Heaven was needing a hero to make everyone up there smile and laugh so hard and God chose you, Nik. Forever and always our champ. You have a piece of everyone’s heart up in heaven with you. I love you forever and always, angel, thank you for teaching me how to love harder and be a better person and never take anything for granted.