Students mourn death of young R&B star

Oct. 11, 2001, midnight | By Omar Guerrero | 22 years, 1 month ago

Fans of R&B music at Blair and around the world have lost one of the genre's most beloved leading ladies. The 22-year-old singer Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dani Haughton, died when her plane crashed in the Bahamas just seconds after takeoff on Aug 25.

The "diva without attitude," as a Washington Post article described her, spent her last hours in the Bahamas shooting a music video. The Grammy-nominated singer's twin-engine plane destined for Opa Locka, Florida crashed a short distance off its runway, killing all nine people on board. The Cessna 402B on which they were flying was certified to carry a maximum of eight people, according to the Cessna Aircraft Company.

Among the others that perished were members of Aaliyah's record label Blackground Records, her bodyguard, make-up artist, hair stylists and the pilot.

According to, a report from Bahamian investigators showed that the plane was overloaded and that the passengers' luggage may not have been properly balanced, possibly causing the crash.

In addition, the pilot, Luis Morales III, pled no contest—a plea not admitting guilt but not challenging the charges—to cocaine possession on Aug 13, according to Florida court records, although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Morales had a clean flying record. also reported that, further adding to the controversy, Blackhawk International Airways, the plane's operator, and Skystream Inc., the plane's owner, were not authorized to fly in the Bahamas. Records show that the FAA had cited Blackhawk nine times, four in the last four years, for improper maintenance and drug-testing violations.

Singing beauty

Although there are unanswered questions associated with the crash, there is mostly anguish and sadness attached to the death of the young star. Fans throughout the Blair community as well as the R&B music world mourn the loss of the "Princess Diana of [the] Hip Hop Community," as she was dubbed by Aaliyah Online, a website at

Senior Class President Salma Alli says she was shocked when she heard about Aaliyah's death. "I was so crushed by the news I cried. It just didn't feel like she died," she says. "I'm still shocked," Alli adds.

Even though Aaliyah is gone, Blazers like junior Sara Furlow say many fond memories remain. "I really wanted to be just like [Aaliyah] and dance like her," Furlow says, smiling as she recalls the moments she used to dance with her cousin to Aaliyah's first single, "Back and Forth."

Senior Edwin Cruz-Abreu remembers the day he heard the tragic news. "I was actually crying. I couldn't think right," he says.

Cruz-Abreu describes Aaliyah as a nice and sweet person without comparison. "She was down- to-earth, so nice and so sweet. Aaliyah was truly one in a million," Cruz-Abreu says, referring to the title of Aaliyah's second album, the multi-platinum One In A Million.

Teen sensation

Among Aaliyah's hit songs are "At Your Best (You Are Love)," "If Your Girl Only Knew," "4 Page Letter" and "Hot Like Fire." Aaliyah also contributed to the soundtracks of many movies, including Dr. Doolittle, Anastasia and Music of the Heart, releasing the songs "Are You That Somebody," "Journey To The Past" and "Turn The Page."

When she was 15, Aaliyah released her first album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, which went platinum. At an even younger age, Aaliyah performed with her aunt, singer Gladys Knight.

Aaliyah had recently released her third album, the now-platinum Aaliyah, which reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart the week of Sept 10, three weeks after Aaliyah's death.

Along with her singing career, Aaliyah was also an up-and-coming actress. She co-starred with Jet Li in Romeo Must Die last year and was slated to star in the second and third sequels to The Matrix. She recently finished filming The Queen of the Damned, a movie based on a best-selling novel by Anne Rice which is expected to be released some time next year.

Although the world has lost one of its most radiant and talented members, Aaliyah's beauty as well as her sweet and melodic voice will live on through her songs and in her films for many years to come, students say.

"She will never be forgotten," affirms Cruz-Abreu.

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Omar Guerrero. Omar Guerrero is will participate this year on Silver Chips for a second year. Guerrero was born in Managua, Nicaragua on April 20, 1984, the baby of the family, including an older brother and sister. The family moved to the United States in 1988 to … More »

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