FORKS — Candlelight filled the stands at Spartan Stadium as Tristen Pisani’s name was announced over the loudspeaker one last time.
“And now, starting at running back for hometown Forks Spartans, number 34, Tristen Pisani,” Mark Feasel, Pisani’s former math teacher, announced over the speaker.
Every seat was filled, but there was no applause or cheers.
Hundreds attended the candlelight vigil at Forks High School on Thursday to mourn Pisani, 19, who was shot and killed after an early morning party Sunday. His accused killer, 17-year-old Phillip Cowles, has been charged with first-degree murder. He remains held on $1 million bail.
Pisani was remembered for his athleticism and his heart as people shared stories, including how he nearly defeated the state wrestling champion last year while wearing a backwards singlet.
“He used to light this field up. He loved to make this town proud of him and he loved his brothers on the team,” said his coach Emil West, holding a candle.
“This field was a great equalizer for him,” West continued. “He didn’t get everything he wanted out of life, but when he was on the field, it didn’t matter where he came from, it didn’t matter what happened before, because he was going to give everything he could. I knew if he had that ball in his hands anything could happen.”
Those who spoke said Pisani had a tough upbringing. When his parents were unable to care for him, he went into foster care.
Pisani, who was an enrolled member of the Hoh Tribe and had family in the Quileute Tribe, was raised by many in the community and had been welcomed into many homes.
Drummers from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe shared songs. Pisani’s family members received blankets.
“I just love that kid so much. He brought me so much joy,” West said. “He was so caring for foster kids. He represented as a foster kid and that meant something to him. He lived so much in his short time on Earth.”
Pisani was the reason other football teams feared traveling to Forks, said Zeke Rosa, who graduated with Pisani in June.
“He is the one that put Forks football on the map,” Rosa said. “He’s the one that put this town on this map, and everybody was scared to step on this field when he was home.
“When he was out on the field, no team wanted to play.”
Rosa said he and Pisani did not get along during freshman year, but after butting heads for awhile, they got close during junior year.
Rosa said he, like many, have struggled to sleep during the last week. He’s had one question he has struggled to understand.
“The question going through my head is: why?” Rosa said. “Why did it have to be him? Why so early in life? He hadn’t even grown up yet.
“All because he was supposedly bullying? What has this world come to if you have to shoot someone to be happy?”
Rosa thanked all those who attended who were showing support to Pisani’s family and the community.
“You’re not only showing me support, but showing everybody else around you support, and that he was loved and cared for by this community,” Rosa said.
Phil Sifuentes, who helped organize the vigil, said he had gotten close to Pisani in recent months and was excited to see that his plans of going to trade school were coming together.
Sifuentes said Pisani was in Forks for one more weekend before moving to Bellingham with a friend. He was set to leave Tuesday.
“He was leaving to go work and he was going to get out of here, which was the best thing for him,” Sifuentes said. “Considering everything he had been through … everything he experienced in his life, for him to be where he’s at, to me he will always be a success story.
“A kid shouldn’t have to go through as much as he went through. He was still out there making progress, and that’s why I had the ultimate faith in him. I knew he was going to make something of himself.”
Sifuentes offered advice to the youth who attended the vigil, urging them to listen to adults.
“I really wish you youngsters … would listen to the adults when we tell you to slow down and take a weekend off,” Sifuentes said. “You guys have your whole lives to be adults, to do the adult things and do the party scene.
“We don’t say that to be hard-asses or not let you have any fun. We say that because we all care about you.”
He said the community needs to come together, and people need to lean on each other for support in a healthy way.
“If you guys need help, reach out to somebody,” Sifuentes said. “We’re all broken because this special, special person is gone, but he’s really not gone. He’s still with us all — and I know that sounds like a Disney movie — but that kid was loved by many. There are a lot of people that love all you youngsters.
“Make smart decisions and be safe.”
Visitation for Pisani is from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Harper Ridgeview Funeral Chapel in Port Angeles.
Pisani’s funeral is at noon Monday at the Forks Assembly of God, with a reception to follow. At 3 p.m. is a dinner at the Akalat Center in La Push.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].