Everyone knew that 15-year-old Quadir Beverly was brave long before he died in a rough Schuylkill current Wednesday night trying to save his best friend, who was swept away in fast-moving waters and also drowned.
Before the young man’s last, selfless act, his teachers and classmates at Mitchell Elementary School knew him as the kid who stood up for the underdog, who volunteered to stay after class to help clean up, who raised his hand when no one else would.
Beverly was set to graduate from Mitchell in a virtual celebration Thursday night. He "was the sweetest kid,” said Stephanie Andrewlevich, principal of the Southwest Philadelphia school. “He’s the best there was.”
Weeks ago, when the eighth-grade education team was choosing adjectives to describe each of the graduates, Beverly’s teacher described him as “brave,” Andrewlevich said. “That’s who we knew he was.… He had the most infectious spirit; he was respected by every student. He was liked by every group. He was the purest form of what is good in this world.”
Police said Beverly and his 14-year-old friend, a student at Tilden Middle School whose name has not been released, went to the river to cool off during an unseasonably hot spring day that saw temperatures reach 90 degrees. After the younger boy jumped into the water and began struggling against the undertow, Beverly jumped in to help him, police said they were told by a third boy, who stayed on the riverbank and called 911.
Beverly’s grandmother Annette Lawrence, who went to the river’s edge Wednesday night, was the first of many to say she was not surprised that he had risked his life for a friend.
The boys went to the river about 7:15 p.m. near 56th Street and Eastwick Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia, not far from Bartram’s Garden. Divers from the Police and Fire Departments recovered their bodies shortly before midnight Wednesday.
“The Schuylkill looks like a very lazy river, but it isn’t,” Philadelphia Police Inspector Ray Evers said Wednesday night. “There’s a definite undertow."
Family members, friends, teachers and strangers flooded social media sites Thursday with praise for Beverly, who planned to attend Motivation High School in the fall.
“It’s a very solemn morning. It’s almost surreal that there would be clouds after [this] news,” Thomas Cooke, Beverly’s grand-uncle, said in a video post on his Facebook page. Beverly, who was Cooke’s sister’s grandson, was a “bright young man” who lost his life “courageously” trying to save his friend, he said.
“I shall never forget Quadir’s optimism, charisma nor his allegiance to his friend. It took a brave soul to dive into a river risking his own life for another. But that was his calling. A steward of his brethren and one good friend til the very end,” Cooke said in a separate Facebook posting.
“Quadir was in our Community Safeway Program last summer at Myers Recreation Center. He was extremely intelligent, kind, thoughtful and he had a bright future in front of him,” Kala Simmons wrote on Facebook. “He comes from a large family and they were so supportive of each other. My heart is so heavy for all involved.”
Beverly “was the type of person who would carry the weight of everyone else on his shoulders,” said Kim Abney, Mitchell Elementary’s counselor.
“He died doing what he wanted to do most — helping other people,” said Abney, who noted that the friend who died did not attend the school but the boy who called 911 did.
“To be 14 and to see two of your friends who you’re with every day drown, it’s really a lot,” she said.
Kelly McCloskey, another of Beverly’s teachers, said he wasn’t surprised that the boy jumped into a dangerous situation to save a friend.
“He would stand up for other kids if someone was being mean to them. He was the one who would try something new. If nobody raised their hand, he would raise his, even if he wasn’t sure of the answer,” said McCloskey, who added that Beverly was a hard worker who loved science, football, and anime, and that he bridged social groups.
Yvonne Nguyen, another Mitchell teacher, recalled that he always asked his teachers how they were doing.
He was an “amazing child who was a great friend to his peers, a supportive human being, selfless, and very caring," she said. "He was a real joy to have in class, with an infectious smile that brightens anybody’s day.”
In remarks written to be delivered to Beverly’s classmates Thursday night, Andrewlevich, the principal, noted that their “burden has been so heavy the last few months, heavier than children should have to bear. Know that we hold you up as Mitchell family. Quadir celebrates this milestone with you this evening. His spirit pushes you to go on.”
Students and teachers will gather at a later date to celebrate Beverly’s life, Andrewlevich said.