The last week has been nothing short of a nightmare for Sayra and Matias Nevarez.
Their son, 18-year-old Aiden Nevarez, fell to his death while on a spring break trip in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, early Monday. They were notified in a phone call from the consulate a few hours later.
“You can’t breathe, you can’t process anything, you don’t feel like anything is real,” Sayra Nevarez said in an interview with The Arizona Republic on Saturday. “Everything stops — your life stops right there.”
The Arizona State University freshman scaled a short wall at his hotel that he didn’t realize had a 20-foot drop on the other side. Both of his parents agreed that changes, whether through better signage or a heightened wall, need to be made in light of their son’s sudden accidental death.
“This can’t happen to anyone else — it’s completely senseless,” Sayra Nevarez said.
More than $100,000 had been raised through GoFundMe to support the family by Saturday afternoon. She said it has been “so heartwarming” to see how much her son has touched others’ lives, adding that he was and remains a “bright, bright light.”
Matias Nevarez said they’ve heard countless stories from people over the last few days about how kind and respectful their son was. Other parents even viewed him as one of their own children, he told The Republic, going on to say that it makes them “so proud” to know how much of a positive difference he made in his 18 years.
Sayra Nevarez said her emotions on Saturday were “just as raw” as they were on Monday, but that they are “thrilled that everybody gets to see a little piece of him even in this awful circumstance.”
Their son had big plans for his life and a “very, very bright future,” she said. He was majoring in financial planning and was particularly interested in helping younger people understand finance.
Though his life was cut short, she said her son’s impact will live on.
“We love him so much and we’re going to miss him until we see him again,” she said. “I know wherever he’s at right now, he’s going to conquer because that’s who Aiden was.”
‘Aiden lived his life to the fullest’
Jack Fitzgerald, 19, was with Nevarez in Mexico. They landed around noon on Sunday and spent the day walking on the beach and exploring the city with friends.
Fitzgerald told The Republic they were at a restaurant around midnight when “out of nowhere,” Nevarez put his arm around him and told him he loved him, which he reciprocated.
“That was such a special moment,” Fitzgerald said.
Their taxi driver dropped Nevarez off at his hotel at around 2 a.m. Only a few hours later, he got a text letting him know his best friend was gone.
“I dropped right to my knees in my room and I just couldn’t believe it,” Fitzgerald said. “It was the worst time of my life, and it really still is.”
Fitzgerald, also an ASU freshman, met Nevarez on the first day of seventh grade. They “instantly clicked” and became close friends, he said.
They went on numerous trips together, which included a recent weekend getaway to San Diego just days before Nevarez’s death. They were also roommates, with Fitzgerald saying “it’ll definitely be hard” to wake up each morning and not see Nevarez in their apartment.
He described his friend as someone who made others feel good to be around, a person with the “biggest smile” and a cheerful spirit.
He said he “never in a million years” would have imagined something like this could happen, but that it highlights the importance of living life the way Nevarez did — embracing each moment’s potential as a future memory.
“If I could be half as good of a man as he was, I’ll have a pretty good life,” Fitzgerald said.
Aidan Brown, a 19-year-old ASU freshman, has known Nevarez since elementary school.
The pair formed a deep bond through the years, going out for regular Chipotle lunches and spending weekends hanging out with their group of friends.
Brown said he was in shock upon hearing about Nevarez’s sudden death, telling The Republic he “just kind of broke down” after hearing what happened.
A group of around 15 of Nevarez’s friends met up that evening to offer hugs, support and tearfully reminisce about their fondest memories. Brown said every person had a funny story to share about Nevarez, which provided comfort as they worked through their collective grief.
“Aiden lived his life to the fullest — he never took it for granted,” Brown said. “That’s a big takeaway for me, just knowing that some freak thing can just take someone from you in an instant. You should just be so grateful for what you have and you shouldn’t take your life for granted.”
He said it’s been “incredible” to see the outpouring of support from both those who knew Nevarez and those who didn’t, adding that he “love(s) the fact that they’re getting to know a little piece of him” through the voices of those who knew him best.
“I just know that he’s watching over us and I know for a fact he would never want us to be sad over this,” Brown said. “That’s what I think of, is hearing his voice telling me not to be sad and to keep moving and get through it.”
ASU did not provide comment on the incident, saying it was “not within our jurisdiction” because Nevarez’s death did not occur on campus or during a school-sponsored educational activity.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Parents, friends mourn loss of ASU student Aiden Nevarez who fell to death in Mexico