Illinois mom takes son’s place at graduation after he dies

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CALUMET CITY, Ill. (AP) – The mother of a suburban Chicago teenager killed in a drunken-driving crash less than a week before his high school graduation took his place at the ceremony, wearing his cap and gown.

Aaron Dunigan died early Sunday in a Calumet City crash just hours after attending prom. The Chicago Tribune reports ( ) that on Wednesday his mother, Katherine Jackson, walked across the stage at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City to accept his diploma.

“He knows his mom never walked the stage,” Katherine Jackson told reporters in a crowded auditorium at Thornton Fractional High School in Calumet City. “I’m going to be his legs and he’s going to be my wings, and we’re going to go up there and get our diploma.”

Dunigan was riding in a car with two classmates when the driver of the car veered into oncoming traffic and slammed into an oncoming truck. The driver of the truck, Juan Rivera, a Metra worker from Calumet City who was on his way to work, was killed. The driver of the car, David Peden, 18, of Calumet City, has been charged with DUI causing death and reckless homicide with a motor vehicle.

Dunigan, a quarterback on the football team who hoped to play at Southern Illinois University, was remembered during the ceremony as an athlete, scholar and a friend. After the ceremony, Jackson hugged her son’s classmates and cried with them.

“My son has left a piece of himself inside all of them,” she said. “Every time I hug one of them, I get a little piece of my baby back.”

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