Katherine Jackson
NBC Chicago 

Aaron Dunigan died in a post-prom car crash before he got the chance to walk across the stage with his fellow graduates from Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Ill., Wednesday. His grieving mother, Katherine Jackson, however, was determined to see her son’s academic accomplishments through, so she donned the late teen’s cap and gown and sat among his graduating classmates in his place.

“[My son] knows his mom never walked the stage,” she said, NBC Chicago reports. “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.


“All of this was divinely orchestrated by my son,” Jackson added. 

Dunigan, who played quarterback for his high school team and had hopes of playing for Southern Illinois University, was one of two people killed in a post-prom accident over the weekend, the news site notes. The car the teen was riding in, driven by his friend, crashed into another car after veering into the opposite lane. 


The driver of the other vehicle, 56-year-old Juan Rivera, also died in the crash.

Dunigan was honored during the graduation ceremony, according to NBC Chicago.

“This has to be a moment of celebration and learning,” school Superintendent Creg Williams said during the ceremony. “Let their incident not be in vain. Be safe.”


Dunigan’s friend David Peden, 18, who was driving that ill-fated evening, has since been charged with DUI causing death and reckless homicide with a motor vehicle, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Peden was released Tuesday on $40,000 bail and has a court appearance scheduled for early June.

A third teenager, who was in the back seat, was seriously injured in the crash.

Read more at NBC Chiago and the Chicago Tribune.