KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It was Stanley Freeman Jr.'s 17th birthday on Friday. Even though family and friends gathered at his grave to remember the teen who died due to gun violence in February, they made sure there were still balloons.
"Even though little Stan is no longer with us, being 17 would have been a very important birthday for him and we just wanted to come out and show that we really miss him," said Clifford Bishop, his uncle.
Stanley was shot and killed while leaving Austin-East Magnet High School on February 12. His family said he was a conscientious student who dreamed of playing college sports one day.
On February 23, he was laid to rest. Hundreds gathered during services to honor him. Those services included scripture readings, music, prayer and reflection, followed by a long procession of cars leading to Freeman's burial site.
"It was a celebration of knowing him, knowing who he was and what he was about and being able to remember all the good things that he brought," said Nathan Guy, his basketball coach, who attended went to the gravesite with other family and friends. "Just kind of a reminder of all the good things."
Stanley was one of five Austin-East Magnet High School students to lose their lives to gun violence so far this year.
"I feel that his spirit is really here today, and his spirit is what keeps me going," said Bishop. "What keeps me going also with this whole process is knowing that his loss was a great loss, but also his loss is also a blessing."