"If you can imagine it, you can dream it, if you can dream it, you can become it," wrote Kevin Hayes (K.J.) Johnson in his Oak Bluffs School 2001 yearbook.
David (Deebo) Furino listed Likes: "Hanging out with friends, funny movies, T.V.," and his favorite memories: "Laughing at Jimmy getting stuck on the mountain on the ski trip."
Their pictures in the softbound yearbook reveal two buzz-cut, grinning boys staring directly into the camera, standing stiffly in front of a blue backdrop. David wrote "fishing" for his favorite activity; Kevin, "basketball." Typical kids. Yours and mine.
It shouldn't matter that neither of the two friends was ordinary; that one, athletic and outgoing, was gifted in math and science, that the other, with his dry sense of humor, was especially talented in all the creative arts. They were just children. Best friends since kindergarten.
Kevin was going to be a senator from Hawaii, according to the middle school graduating class prophesy, and David would become a standup comedian appearing on Saturday Night Live.
"We cried a lot today," Oak Bluffs guidance counselor Bill Jones said the other day, noting the strong ties between the regional high school's junior class and the Oak Bluffs School, where many of their younger brothers and sisters attend.
Mr. Jones talked about Monday at his school: "It was a really challenging day. We talked about the fact that it just doesn't make sense. None of this makes sense. These are two kids that any parent would be proud of; any school in the United States would be proud to have them as part of their class. It's so hard to picture two kids who are as nice as they are should have anything bad happen to them."
Mr. Jones sat in the guidance office on the second floor with social studies teacher Stacey Morris-Porterfield and math teacher Eve Heyman, both of whom had developed special relationships with Kevin and David. Ms. Heyman, who first taught sixth, then seventh and eighth grade, had the two boys in her class for three years; Ms. Morris-Porterfield, for two years.
They spoke of freckle-faced, outgoing Kevin, and David, with the naturally blonde spot in his dark hair, his wonderful sense of humor and big crooked grin. Honor students. Endearing. Full of promise.
"David was such a good thinker. He would be quiet in class, then would come out with such a perfect comment, and you knew he was thinking hard about what you were discussing," Ms. Heyman remembered.
"And he had an amazing sense of humor. A quiet, dry wit that was with him from sixth grade through eighth grade. It really was very mature. He could take any quiet or awkward situation and make it funny. It would be like one, very funny line."
The boys had the same circle of about 10 friends since they started school. "They were who they were right from the beginning," Mr. Jones said. "They were friendly and nice to everyone - liked by everyone. Sometimes in seventh and eighth grade, kids pick someone they don't like anymore. But that never happened. Never any meanness. They were part of a group of kids who all loved being with each other."
Ms. Morris-Porterfield said: "You'd bump into the whole group in town. They always came in a group. Their favorite thing to do would be to be together. After school they'd be out on the basketball court. They'd walk to Tony's together. It's the kind of group of kids where you're like, hey, they're still together, and they'd always stop to talk to you no matter what they were doing."
The teachers tried to avoid using the past tense.
Kevin was more outgoing, more of a joiner, on sports teams and on the math team. David was quieter. He loved spiders, even wrote about them in elementary school. He loved to build things, to write and create. He would draw political cartoons, and recently worked as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Florida.
"Fun-loving kids," the teachers agreed, recounting the ski trip when Kevin, throwing an orange up from the first to the second floor motel windows, toppled out into a snow bank - a story that grew better in the retelling as the school year progressed.
"They were two of the greatest kids who ever walked through the door," said Ms. Morris-Porterfield. "Kevin was a teacher's dream in a way. He seemed like he loved to learn. He always had his homework, always had his hand up. He was a deep thinker. I gave him the Unsung Hero award because he was the most consistent person I've ever met. You could always count on him."
Mr. Jones remembered Kevin as a questioner. "If there was an issue of social justice, or something he didn't feel was right, he was never afraid to speak up. He'd always come to my door and he'd say, ‘Can I ask you a question?' And he'd ask me the question and his points would always be well thought out. Very often I'd say, ‘you're right, we probably do need to look at this, and this probably isn't fair.' I just picture him saying, ‘I have to ask you a question.' "
But this week there were no good answers.
The white graffiti board by the door in Mr. Jones's office had messages scribbled on it in red and black felt tip pen: "KJ & Deebo, Always on our minds, in our hearts, and in our memories. We will never forget you."