West Hall High School band members and leadership are mourning the loss of 17-year-old Cristofer Acosta-Farias, who died while swimming near Balus Creek Park on Lake Lanier on Friday, July 24.
Acosta-Farias was remembered with a candlelight vigil at the park on Sunday.
The teen was a rising junior and beloved band member at the high school, and posts on band social media describe him as “sweet, vulnerable, kind, and strong.”
The Facebook and Instagram posts show the teen practicing with the band, as well as fellow band members holding candles and releasing balloons at the Sunday vigil.
“It’s amazing what a community can do once we all come together. Tonight, this one was for you, Cristof,” one person commented on the West Hall High School band’s Instagram.
Director of Bands Katy Wilson-Fields wrote that the teen was “an absolute light.”
“He was sweet, vulnerable, kind and strong. He had a tremendous work ethic and loved to have fun with his band family,” she wrote.
Her post recalled memories of Acosta-Farias and his “booming” voice, a kind soul with an “eager, positive expression” who would take time to help out newer band members.
“He knew the kind of person he wanted to become, and he was constantly working toward becoming a better person. But Cristof was already such a wonderful young man and he will be so, so missed,” the post said.
Wilson-Fields described the rising junior as “the best kind of kid (and) the best kind of student.”
“You can’t imagine ever losing a student. But to lose someone like Cristof was just absolutely devastating. I didn’t believe it. I’m still in shock,” she said.
The band director started drafting a letter to students and families just to list the facts. Writing about Cristof, however, brought back memories of his energetic force for the band.
Students were allowed to come to the campus today to pick up equipment, as they will host virtual band sessions this week. There is a banner in the band room where people can write messages, Wilson-Fields said.
“The students have done a phenomenal job jumping into action when they were grieving and heartbroken. They’ve done a lot to raise money for the family,” she said.
A GoFundMe page set up by the family of one of Acosta-Farias' fellow band members aims to assist the family of the West Hall teen with funeral and other expenses. The page is approaching its $10,000 goal.
“There are those students that you teach, and you know that they’re going to be successful at whatever they do by the way their facial expression is, or the way they sit in their chair, or the way that they’re eager to learn. And that’s exactly who Cristof was. He embodied the spirit of what a student should be,” Wilson-Fields said.
Digital editor Thomas Hartwell contributed to this report.