Kids flooded out the doors of Lassiter High School eager to head home Tuesday afternoon.
All was normal except for the grown, misty-eyed military men standing outside the concert hall describing two students who will never walk across that parking lot again.
Capt. Jim Minta, head naval sciences officer at the school’s ROTC program, spoke through red eyes about brothers 18-year-old James and 14-year-old Joseph Pratt.
The senior and freshman Navy ROTC students died in a U.S. 92 crash with a Fulton County special-needs school bus about 24 hours earlier while on their way to the dentist’s office.
The instructor described the younger brother Joe as a “fun-loving kid” he remembers cutting up the dance floor at the military program’s Christmas ball.
Minta said said James, who went by Jim, had enlisted in the reserves of the U.S. Marines and had plans to go to Kennesaw State University after graduation, which is exactly a month away from Tuesday.
Blake Taylor worked with Jim the last seven months at the UPS shipping hub in Roswell.
He felt awful as soon as he recognized Jim’s car on television underneath that school bus.
Taylor took to Twitter after hearing the news, writing: “Sad to see someone so young gone so soon.”
In an interview, he said Jim was professional and worked hard.
“He was always smiling,” even if he wasn't happy, Taylor said. “But he was always polite.”
He last saw him Friday and remembers that Jim was excited for a weekend spent doing the things a high schooler with a month left to graduation does.
Jim was supposed to be at work Tuesday for their 6 p.m. shift.
Both brothers also volunteered for special events and after school programs at a nearby elementary school.
Unfortunately, the Lassiter community wasn’t the only one mourning; four students from Langston Hughes High in Fulton County also died on the roads Monday afternoon.