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Students at Tennyson High School comfort each other during an assembly to remember Ahmad Rahimi, who was killed by an Amtrak train, at the school in Hayward, Calif. on Thursday, September 27, 2007. (Tue Nam Ton/ANG Newspapers)
HAYWARD — Ahmad Rahimi dreamed of graduating from high school, attending college and finding a niche in the medical field.

Those plans will never materialize.

Rahimi, 16, was struck and killed by an Amtrak train Wednesday morning near Tennyson High School.

"He loved everybody and was close friends with everyone at school," his mother, Najiba Rahimi, said through a translator. "He always had a smile on his face."

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Ahmad later emigrated to the United States with his family, where he established a strong work ethic.

"Despite all the problems he had in a new country, he worked real hard to get good grades and learn English," said his cousin, Haseena Rahimi.

Ahmad spent most of his weekends working at the San Jose Flea Market. In his free time, he enjoyed shooting hoops and was on Tennyson High's basketball team.

"He loved the Lakers and Kobe Bryant," brother Ahmad Rashad said. "He was always willing to give and do anything that you asked. He was always friendly. He wasjust a good person. A good brother."

Students at the school created a makeshift memorial on campus. Flowers, pictures and candles were placed on a table just outside the school office. Paper posters covered the school walls, where students paid their respects and wrote personal messages to their lost classmate.

An emotional memorial ceremony also was held by students on campus during Thursday's lunch hour. After a moment of silence to remember their fallen classmate, students and staff took turns sharing memories of Ahmad.

"There are few people in this world who can just brighten up your day, and Ahmad was one of them," a tearful Kara Maldonado told her peers. "The world is a colder place without him."

Ahmad was hit along Huntwood Avenue near the back entrance to the school, where many students take a shortcut across the railroad tracks. After crossing the rails, students often hop a chain-link fence to get onto school grounds. There is no barrier separating the tracks from a nearby residential area.

Police said the teen apparently "was trying to beat the train" on his way to school. An at-grade rail crossing is about 200 yards from where Ahmad was hit.

His death, at least the fifth Huntwood-area train fatality since 2005, reopens wounds that have yet to heal in the Tennyson High community.

In February 2005, 14-year-old Celedonia Castro also was hit and killed by an Amtrak train. Her family subsequently filed a lawsuit against the district, claiming that a lack of supervision by school officials at the Huntwood gate led to Celedonia's death. The family accepted a financial settlement of $200,000 from the district this year.

Frustrations were also expressed during the lunchtime memorial. Students passed out petitions urging the district to provide alternate, safer routes from the back entrance.

"This is just too much, and we need some sort of overpass so none of this happens again," Crystal Hines said to classmates. "We can't have this happen again, and it'll be our way to do something about it."

Others, however, asked students to learn from the tragedy.

"Let this be a lesson. The train is going 79 miles per hour and doesn't know any better," said Jaime Ybona, school custodian. "Ahmad was a good kid, and this just shouldn't have happened."

In response to the incident, district staff have pushed up the annual assembly warning students of all schools near railroad tracks about the dangers of moving trains.

"We're trying to do what we can to educate our students who attend our schools," said Carole Lopez, administrative services director.

Lopez said the assembly will be conducted within the next month.

Ahmad is survived by his parents, Abdul and Najiba Rahimi; sisters, Arzoo, Tamana, Sadia and Zahra; and brothers Ahmad Rashad and Rahim.

Private services will be held today at the Abu Bakr Siddiq Mosque in Hayward. Services open to the public will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. today at the Mosque of Muhajireen, 185 Folsom Ave.

Kristofer Noceda can be reached at 510-293-2479 or knoceda@dailyreviewonline.com.