Aaron Chen doesn’t want his cousin Peter Wang to be remembered as a victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. He wants him to be remembered for being “the best brother, cousin, son and friend anyone could ever ask for.”
In a four-minute video posted Sunday morning on Instagram, 16-year-old Aaron talks about growing up with Peter and how his life was cut short Wednesday when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and teachers.
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“My cousin Peter Wang was one of the 17 people who was murdered in cold blood last Wednesday at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting,” he said, voice cracking. “But he wasn’t just my cousin. He was my brother. He was my rock. He was everything good that I strive to be.”
Aaron goes on to talk about his relationship with Peter. The two were born one year and two days apart. Peter was 15.
He showed pictures of their joint birthday parties. One was two years ago, with the two boys surrounded by family at a pool party. The second one was nine years ago. Peter and Aaron were wearing party hats, holding up the peace sign in front of a cake decorated as a smiley face.
“I remember coming to America almost exactly 10 years ago. A few months before I came, I remember my mother calling me all the way from America just to tell me about this kid,” he recalled. “This kid that was just like me and all I had to do was wait for a couple months and I’d get to meet him. That kid was Peter.”
When Aaron came to the United States from China, he said he had a hard time getting used to his new country.
“Being the new kid sucks, but imagine being the new kid that couldn’t speak English,” he said, choking back tears throughout the video. “I would have died if it wasn’t for Peter. He made sure I wasn’t bullied. Even though he was a whole year younger than me, he protected me and I couldn’t protect him during the shooting.”
Aaron goes on to describe the summer the two lived with their teacher.
“Every kid’s worst nightmare, but to me it didn’t feel like a nightmare,” he said. “That’s because Peter was with me. I think that was the summer that me and Peter learned to share everything.”
The next picture he showed was the two wearing matching yellow and gray shirts.
“My whole life I was so certain that Peter was going to be there, everything was going to be OK,” he said. “We were going to grow old together. I was going to die first and he was going to die a little while later, so we’d always be together.”
And while losing his cousin to gun violence has been the hardest thing Aaron has had to deal with, he said there is some solace in knowing his cousin died a hero.
“On Feb. 14th Nikolas Cruz shot Peter in the head, while he was holding the door so others could escape,” he said. “So don’t you dare come up to me and tell me there’s no such thing as gun violence.”
He also hopes the shooting will be the impetus for change — in honor of Peter and the other people who lost their lives.
“I have a message for the families that also lost someone that day — you are not alone,” he said. “We are not going to let this happen to anyone, anywhere. Not again. Not ever again. That’s what Peter stood for.”