Rememberig Laween: Memorial

May 20, 2016


On Saturday, March 12, senior Ryan Duffy, and some of his friends began working on a memorial for senior Laween Akrawi. Duffy is a spray paint artist and believed that this would be an appropriate tribute. He and his friends spent countless hours spray painting, while enduring many obstacles such as obtaining permission, rain and cold temperatures.

“I talked to my subschool principal,” Duffy said. “They had me talk to head of security, Mr. Gardner, and then after talking to them, I got permission from the family.”

Duffy and his friends were allowed to carry out their memorial under one condition. They have to repaint it at the end of the school year.

“Ryan put so much work into this,” junior Claudia Selim said. “He has the biggest heart I know, and I really hope that they don’t take this down.”

Regardless of this condition, Duffy continued on for the sake of honoring his friend.

“We got here at 7 [p.m.]” Selim said. “We had to figure out how we were going to put the projector face down.”

After Duffy procured permission to use the parking spots adjacent to Akrawi’s, he set up a tent to prevent rain damage in addition to hanging the projector. The projector was used to display Akrawi’s senior portrait on his parking spot.

“I have a ladder on top [of the van] and a ton of zip ties attaching the projector to the stool,” Duffy said.

He spent approximately 30 minutes just setting up, in addition to the eight hours he spent taping and spray painting that night.

“On Sunday it was raining,” Duffy said. “In the pouring rain I went from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.”

Moreover, he explained that with the photo editor GIMP, he highlighted sections with different colors that he was getting ready to spray paint. He and his friends used the projection as a guide to tape the designated areas. This allowed him to spray paint each section without spilling into a different section. He immediately dried the layer of paint with fire and blew it out once it was dry.

“It was insane,” junior Colin Draschner said. “I could feel the fire against my skin,”

This attracted the attention of suspicious neighbors, who called the police. Afterall, there were a bunch of teenagers on school grounds playing with fire after midnight.

“The cops came [because] they were suspicious of us,” Duffy said. “They wanted to make sure we were doing this legally.”

Duffy assured the officer he acquired permission to carry out this project. The police officer took interest in Duffy’s project and checked up on him throughout the night.

“At 3:00 a.m. in the morning, the cop showed up with a big Monster energy drink to help me with the painting,” Duffy said.

Afterwards, the police didn’t hassle him and his friends any longer, but the weather did.

“I came here with Duffy,” junior Melanie Simpson said.[Although,] the tent was still up, the problem was the wind [because] it was pushing in the rain and asphalt to the spray painting.”

Selim took a trip to grab paper towels from her home, and Simpson attempted to use a leaf blower to limit the damage from the weather, but it failed. They called it quits and came back Sunday evening to continue.

“I didn’t dry one of the layers enough, so I actually had to go back over it the next day,” Duffy said.  

Although the rain didn’t leak over all the layers of paint, Duffy was required to redo multiple applications. Regardless of the minor set back, the progress was stunning.

“I think [Duffy’s] making good progress on it,” Simpson said.

She wasn’t the only one to appreciate his work. The following evening Duffy and his friends were surprised to find flowers and balloons near the portrait.

“I actually liked hearing about how some family dropped off flowers,” Simpson said. “I thought it was really sweet.”

In addition, Lealav Akrawi came to pay a visit to her son’s memorial.

“I never thought this could happen,” Lealav Akrawi said. “That this could be done for my son. It shows the love and how much people love him, and it’s beyond appreciation.”

Akrawi said she cried tears of joy when she learned this was being done for her son, Laween.

“I have this photo enlarged and made it framed, and it’s in my living room,” Akrawi said. “It’s one of the best photos [of Laween].”

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