One year ago, as everyone was celebrating ringing in the new year, gunshots were ringing through the Kologi home. Waking up to this news was devastating, even more so because this happened in my hometown, and it happened to someone I went out with in high school. Even though we hadn’t had any contact in years, for obvious reasons, this news devastated me. I remember the last time I saw Steve, it was almost 5 years ago. I ran into him at the convenient store across from his house. It was a couple of months after my fiancé died and I had been up in Long Branch on business. We talked for about 15 mins about our lives and our families. He had heard about the death of my fiancé and expressed his sympathy. His smile was always warm and his eyes sparkled as he talked about his family. He loved his family.

(Linda Kologi via Facebook)

I had been in contact with his father, Adrian Kologi throughout the years. We chatted on Facebook every now and then. When I heard the news, my heart broke for him. I didn’t have all the details and I knew he probably wouldn’t be answering any calls or messages any time soon. My phone was ringing all morning from friends in disbelief. Tears flowing down my face on a day that should have been a happy start to the new year. It was anything but. I had to pull myself together for my annual New Year’s Day on air shift.

Over the next few weeks, there were many phone calls between myself and other friends and family members of the Kologi family. Efforts to hold a fundraiser to assist with funeral and burial expenses were made within a short period of time. Such a tragic event brought the City of Long Branch together. Monies were raised and the fundraiser that was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack was a complete success. At least a thousand people showed up for the event, including old friends that flew in just to show their love and support. Memories were shared, laughs were had, and some tears were shed. The Kologi family were overwhelmed with gratitude. As horrible as the situation was, people came together to show their support.

Jasmine Rodriguez - Townsquare Media

There was a candlelight vigil held in honor of the Kologi Family and Mary Schultz. Hundreds of people showed up. I myself waited till everyone was gone before I left my candles and a small bowl of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes in memory of the nickname, I gave Steve when we were kids. I remember there were still news vans there when I arrived a couple of hours later. The pictures, balloons, candles were left behind on the gazebo.

Jasmine Rodriguez - Townsquare Media

The line for the viewing was down the block and a roped of line was made within the funeral home to try and accommodate the amount of people that showed up to pay their last respects.

It was a sad time, but it was also a time that brought old friends together. I didn’t attend the funeral the following day as I had my own family emergency that day. I wanted to be there, but it was just as well that I didn’t go.

I spoke to Adrian a couple of times throughout the year. We talked about what happened. I cannot imagine being in his all!! He lost his son, daughter in law, granddaughter, his love, (Mary) and the grandson that killed them. I wanted to get up to Long Branch to spend time with him and Steve Jr., however my busy schedule didn’t allow for that to happen. Life got in the way. That sounds so superficial of me, and that is why I am writing this blog…I want the family to know that many of us still hold them in our hearts. There isn’t a day that goes by that they are not thought of. This past summer, I wore the number 16 to honor Steve “Kujo” “Kellogg’s” Kologi for the Townsquare Media softball game vs the Toms River PD. I wore it proud. I went 4 for 5 that day.

Jasmine Rodriguez - Townsquare Media

My point through this all, is that life is short. It really is important to not forget the ones no longer with us, but we cannot forget the ones that were left behind. So, as I was ringing in the New Year last night into this morning, I can’t honestly say that I wasn’t upset. The Kologi family was on my mind all night. I kind of felt guilty having a good time, but I knew that the family wouldn’t want us to not celebrate. I celebrated in their honor and yes there were tears shed. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will never be the same. That horrific event, affected many people…many people still cannot talk about it...but one thing is, it brought many people together.