FREDERICK — They came to the parking lot at Rocky Mountain Christian Church Friday night for a BMX ride.
Some were too young to know why. Others were too old to ride but wanted to show support for the cause: A memorial ride for Jordan McMullen.
McMullen, a junior at Frederick High School, was found dead in his home Nov. 11.
In the half-hour leading up to the ride, the riders strapped colored glow sticks to their spokes, chatted about their latest news — all with the knowledge that one of their friends wasn’t going to participate.
“It’s a way to celebrate him,” said Abbi Arneson, a former neighbor and a fellow BMX rider. “I don’t think he’d be embarrassed. It’s an eye-opener. I know he’s watching us. He knows how much he was loved.”
Mike Murfitt organized Friday’s memorial ride. He met McMullen at the BMX track in Dacono almost nine years ago.
“He was a good kid, always had a smile on his face,” he said. “Very positive .. always wanted to help people out. He joked around.”
McMullen was an accomplished BMX rider.
“He was internationally known,” Murfitt said. “I saw an article in Spain about him. He was amazing. He was on the Junior Olympic team. He was working with a lot of the younger kids in junior clinics. That was really awesome to watch. He was thrilled to be helping kids.”
McMullen’s father was Murfitt’s coach at one time.
“He (Jordan) wanted to take that role over at some time in the future,” Murfitt said. “They were in the sport before I was. I’m not sure how they got interested. One of my friends was racing. I went to the track one day and thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’”
McMullen was forgetful, too.
“He’d always leave stuff behind,” Murfitt said. “That’s kids. He’d leave his phone. He always had a broken phone. Guess that’s part of being a BMX rider.”
Murfitt reminded the crowd about the rules of the short ride to Frederick High School, especially the part about not venturing too far into the street. He led them in an extended moment of silence.
And then they left the church with Frederick police cars as the pace car and the chase car. It was easy to hear cries of “We love you, Jordan,” and “Jordan rules” as the riders departed.
Once they arrived at the school parking lot, there was a brief ceremony. And then it was time to head back to the church, to pack up their bikes.
To go home.
“The kid was buff,” Murfitt said. “He was huge. If you are super-super big, BMX is a problem. But he was cut. He was in good shape.
“He always had the best smile. You could be in the worst mood ever, and he would smile at you with his little grin,” Murfitt continued. “He was open to anybody. He never had an enemy. Even on the track, after they got off the track, he was friends. He wanted to win.
“It’s been a rough week,” Murfitt concluded. “A lot of obstacles to overcome and things like that. What helps is remembering how positive he was and how helpful he was. I know he’d want us to be smiling right now.”
“This week alone has felt like three months,” Arneson said. “It’s been a long week of no sleep and stress — school, trying to pay attention without him sitting in class. I’ve spent a lot of time in the counseling office and talking to friends. We’ve been there for each other all week.”
Arneson said BMX took up a lot of McMullen’s life.
“He was the best brother figure I could have aside from my brothers,” Arneson said. “He had my back, no matter what. I could count on him for a smile. He was an all-around amazing guy.
“Knowing him is a life-changing thing,” she added. “He brings light and smiles everywhere he goes. He’s an inspiring kid. He never gave up. He pushed through the hardest of times that I couldn’t even imagine. He was the happiest kid I knew. Even if he secretly wasn’t, nobody knew.”
Contact staff writer Steve Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org