“I don’t want to die,” a mortally wounded Tommy Johnston told his friend Yang Chung after they and two other Palisades Park High School football players were stabbed on Broad Avenue the night before Labor Day 1992.
Johnston, 17, had just been stabbed twice in the chest during a fight with two boys from Ridgefield Park. He died at the hospital.
Their friend, Philip Raymondo, 16, died on the steps of police headquarters. He’d been stabbed in the heart.
Chung and Gino Zilocchi, now both 43, described the horrific murders of their friends to two groups Thursday during assemblies at Palisades Park Junior/Senior High School on the potentially tragic consequences of sudden violence.
Chung got choked up speaking to the younger kids.
“I can still see the scene from that evening right in front of my eyes,” he said. “I remember watching that kid drive his knife through Tommy’s heart.”
Johnston stumbled across Broad Avenue and collapsed on the sidewalk.
“By the time I got over there, Tommy’s legs were still,” Chung said. “He said, ‘Jack, I don’t want to die.’ Those were his exact words, over and over.”
The football players were part of a group walking on Broad Avenue when they ran into two boys and a girl from Ridgefield Park at Central Boulevard, near the borough police station.
Words were exchanged and the two Ridgefield Park teens pulled knives, police said.
Chang and Zilocchi were each stabbed in the arm. They and their friends had no weapons.
“Luckily, Gino and I walked away with knife wounds,” Chang said.
The names of the Ridgefield Park boys were never released because they were juveniles at the time. One boy was charged with both killings. Police accused the other of illegal weapons possession in a delinquency complaint.
The argument that triggered the deadly attack was over a girl, the participants said.
It was over in an instant.
Concerns over violence among youngsters convinced Principal Frank Donohue that students should see the effects of unrestrained anger up close.
“This was a very informative assembly to teach students how violence can happen in a moment’s notice -- and to avoid it at all costs,” said Palisades Park Police Capt. Anthony Muccio, the officer in charge of his department. “We have an open-door policy for the students. Should they need us, we are here for them.”
Chang encouraged the youngsters to never hesitate in turning to adults for help – and to think twice before they do something they and others will regret.
“Please, don’t get swept away with the atmosphere and environment that you might be engaged in,” he told them. “What you do today will impact what you do tomorrow.
PHOTOS: Courtesy PALISADES PARK PD
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