Agony and heartbreak at wake of North Bergen crash victim

Hundreds poured into the Jorge Rivera Funeral Home in Union City on Friday for the wake of 16-year-old Noel Herrera, who was remembered for being a good friend, devoted son, fiercely loyal and encouraging to others when it came to following their dreams.

“My son, he was a wonderful person — kind,” says Sandra Herrera, Noel’s mother.  “He give, ya know, not expecting nothing back.”

Noel was always there for people.

“For the friends.  He was like, so friendly — always smiling,” Herrera says.  “I’ll never forget that smile.”

Skateboarding and Noel, always together.  “That was his passion,” Herrera says with a smile, adding that he didn’t go anywhere without it and took every opportunity to practice.

And among the many things she loved about her son, she is going to miss laughing with him.

“I laughed with him a lot,” Herrera says.

She adds that she used to tell Noel, ‘when you smile at people, no matter what their race — sometimes they need it, when you hug people too’ and ‘if you feel like giving a hug, give a hug to anyone.’  “I think he was like that.”

The two friends had recently reconnected after he moved to Cliffside Park.  Nathalia Daza saw and spoke to Noel shortly before that fateful night.

“I was just getting, like hanging out with him again, ya know, reliving those memories back again in sixth grade,” Daza says.  “So when I found out this happened I was just heartbroken.”

The skateboarder touched a lot of lives.

“I’m gonna miss him a lot,” says friend, Ashley Soto.  “I had him for gym and he always made me laugh and everything, but now I don’t have nobody.”

All of this means something.

“Like it’s just very dangerous around here and I just noticed that like a couple of days ago, like ‘cause there’s been a lot of kids dying and it’s just crazy,” Manny Fajardo says.

Sandra doesn’t want Noel, Bryan, 17, and 17-year-old Manny Sanchez (who’s recovering at Jersey City Medical Center) to be forgotten.

“We have to do something,” Herrera says.  “Those three kids, they were in the wrong place and that bad guy have to pay for this.  Ya know, G-d is watching him, like fate.”

About The Author

Jillian has a passion for news, giving voice to the voiceless and telling stories that make an impact. A New Jersey native, she spent the past two years as a multimedia journalist/one-man-band at WTAP-TV, the NBC affiliate in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where she covered everything from meth busts to fracking to the homeless to a young man struck by lightening. She was her news director’s “go to health reporter” and also covered many education and political stories. She frequently interviewed the mayors of Parkersburg, Vienna and Williamstown, WV and Belpre and Marietta, Ohio. She interviewed OH Gubernatorial Candidate Ed Fitzgerald and OH Congressional Candidate Jennifer Garrison, as well as WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and WV Senator Joe Manchin. Jillian was a regular fixture at the local police, sheriff’s departments, prosecutors’ offices and courthouses. Many looked forward to her ‘Mom of the Month’ series. Her story about two women who lost their children to heroin was widely recognized, along with her much loved piece on the Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis band camp. In her free time, Jillian enjoys yoga; working out, live music, spending time with friends on both coasts and the Mid-Ohio Valley. Follow on Twitter @JillianRis

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