By Cheryl Lasseter
"Aaliyah was wonderful. She was the leader in the classroom. She loved to read and help the other boys and girls," says Natalie Barry, a first-grade teacher at Marshall Elementary School who taught kindergarten last year.
Barry says her former student, charming little Aaliyah Weatherspoon, was hard to forget. "Very smart. Top of the class," she says.
On Wednesday morning, Barry had the difficult task of informing her students that Aaliyah, their playground helper and classroom coach, had succumbed to the injuries she suffered in a hit-and-run accident. It happened in late October across the street from the school, right outside Weatherspoon's home as she watched the lunar eclipse with her older brother.
"I just told them that Aaliyah had died," Barry says of her conversation with her students. "We talked about what that meant, and that she was in heaven now, looking over us. Our little angel. To think, she was going to be something one day. I used to tell her she was going to be the first woman president," Barry says, fighting back tears.
The speed limit on Oak Forest Drive, outside Aaliyah's home, is only 30 miles per hour. But neighbors say the residential road is a hotbed for speeding motorists, and a serious accident was inevitable.
The only known witness to the accident is Aaliyah's brother, and he has only been able to describe the vehicle as a tan-colored box-style car. A local attorney speaking on behalf of the family says he's been asked personally to find the offender. "Someone out there knows something," Robert Wilkins says. "This family is hurting. The person that did this, please, please turn yourself in."
If you know anything about this crime, call Jackson Police at 960-1234 or the Law Office of Robert Wilkins at 948-6888.
Jackson Police say the driver will now face vehicular homicide and a number of other charges.