Cinema, theater student remembered for love of dancing, passion for others

By Kitt Fresa, Features Editor

Friends, family, and faculty gathered in the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts on Monday to celebrate the life of theater and cinema and photography student Aaron Banez.

Approximately 200 people united together and expressed stories of Banez’s passion for the people around him and his deep love for skateboarding and dancing.

Banez passed away in the early morning on April 29, when he was struck by a freight train near the East Pleasant Hill Road overpass.

One by one, people walked up to the front of the room and shared their memories of Banez.

“We were always really close,” Acie Roxas, Banez’s older sister said to the crowd. “He was always that kid that was just so silly. I can’t stop thinking about his smile. He always knew how to make us laugh even when I wasn’t ready to.”

Roxas was joined by Banez’s older brother, sister and mother who received countless condolences during the event.

Leading up to her brother’s passing, Roxas said he had called a lot of people, some of which he hadn’t spoken to in over a year.

Roxas who hadn’t seen Banez in around a month said to the people who saw him in the last week to please honor that.

“Him reaching out was his way of telling you that he loved you,” Roxas said.

Michael Morones, a close friend of Banez’s and freshman year roommate said Banez transformed his life.

“Aaron, the one thing I really wanted to say was he never let me say a bad word about any person,” Morones said. “Anytime I was like ‘yo Aaron this person rubbed me the wrong way’ he’s like ‘hey man you don’t know where they’re coming from. He hardly said a bad word about anybody.”

In Morones’ speech, he praised Banez for working hard with him on projects — sometimes working until 7:00 a.m.

Morones said there are no words for how good of a friend Aaron was.

“He just always came to me frustrated that he couldn’t be doing more, that he couldn’t be making more and that he couldn’t be out of school creating and helping other people,” Morones said. “He wanted to do dance videos, he wanted to film them in Chicago for a dance company and then give the money to kids who couldn’t afford dance school in poor communities — that was like his life goal, one of them, he had many goals.”

Jeff Mugrage, a senior in cinema and photography, said what very little he did know Banez, he wished he got to know him more.

“He was always very open and left an impact on me and when I found out last night I was, I did not react well,” Mugrage said.

Mugrage said Banez was extremely generous, kind and open to him. He said to the crowd to remember that whatever you want in this world, no matter how small you feel or how big, you are a part of it.

“You leave impacts on people’s lives whether you realize it or not and I think that’s the best thing you can do as a human being,” Murgrage said. “That’s the best gift I think you can give another person, I truly believe that, and Aaron gave me that gift.”

During his time at SIU, Banez was also an resident assistant for campus housing, the secretary of Movie Camera Movement, involved in Southern Illinois Dance Company and countless theater performances. Carol Westerman-Jones, the cinema and photography academic adviser said that Banez frequently took over 18 credit hours a semester on top of his other time commitments.

Counselors with the SIU Student Health Center also attended and offered to help to anyone in need of assistance.

“If you feel at all that you need some kind of counseling, that you’re feeling too depressed or too disoriented in the world, please we have people in this university that will help you,” HD Motyl, Interim chair of the Cinema and Photography department said.

A memorial in the front of the CP office is being formed in honor of Banez.

Anyone who has items such as pictures or certain items they relate to Banez are being encouraged to bring it to the Cinema and Photography office to go on display until the end of the semester.

Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. there will be a memorial event in the Old Main Lounge at the Student Center. Before the closing of the evening, attendees will write letters of encouragement to Aaron’s family that will be sent after the event.

A free, 24/7 confidential service that provides support for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting 741-741.

Features editor Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @KittFresa.

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