The first day at his new school was what Damaria Moon, to this day, still calls the hardest day of his life — and the second day hadn’t gone any better.
Back then, Moon was new to Harker Heights as an eighth-grader after spending the past seven years in Virginia.
On that second day, Moon was sitting by himself at lunch until a group of boys came up and sat down with him.
One of them was Joseph Alaniz.
“I just became a part of the family that day,” Moon said.
For Moon, everything got better after that fateful lunch period.
“The second day of school, around lunchtime, it changed my life,” he said.
But Moon was just one of many that Alaniz touched in his life, which came to a tragic end following a car accident east of Marble Falls early Tuesday morning.
Heights head football coach Jerry Edwards remembered Alaniz welcoming him to the community in similar fashion after he arrived at Heights on the eve of last football season.
It was the type of gesture that was typical of Alaniz.
“He was a great young man and very friendly and always had a smile on his face and worked hard,” Edwards said. “Never had a bad day, never complained and (was) just one of those feel good kids that you always enjoyed being around and other kids enjoyed being around as well.”
His infectious personality, however, wasn’t limited to the football field.
Alaniz and his friends were regulars at Heights sporting events, home and away, and Alaniz was well-known throughout the Killeen community.
On Tuesday, Heights students, from current ones to graduates, and fellow athletes from Shoemaker to Killeen were part of an outpouring of emotion on social media as everyone remembered the good times shared with Alaniz.
“You always saw him surrounded by a bunch of people and always seemed to be smiling,” former Heights assistant football coach Glenn Cunningham said.
“That was kind of how you remembered Joseph.”
“He was a good friend to everybody,” added Robert Hagey, who coached Alaniz on the offensive line for four years. “Somebody needed something? Joe was there.
“He was always just consistent.”
Because of that, many of his friends have vowed to carry on his spirit as they move on in life.
“I’m going to look at Joe like he’s still here with me, he’s still in my spirit, he’s still in my heart, he’s still my brother because that’s what he would want me to do,” classmate and teammate Tony Barnes said. “He would want me to stay strong because he knows that he’s living above me and it’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you soon.”
Moon certainly won’t forget Alaniz after he changed his life for the better in the eighth grade.
And Moon said that while Alaniz was taken away early, now he can touch even more lives than the many that he touched while he was alive, including Moon.
“I’d like to think of Joseph as the world’s angel because no matter what he was always smiling,” Moon said. “Joe always had something good going on and he was always looking out for the better.”