A grieving family's neighbourhood park in Paradise has been named after their late 4-year-old son, in a show of town-wide consolation marking one year since the boy's tragic death.
Mayor Dan Bobbett unveiled Noah's Place on Tuesday, renaming the Reardon Avenue Playground where Noah Zaja once spent his afternoons.
"Twelve months ago we woke up to a day that we didn't know would change the rest of our lives," Noah's mother, Pam Myles, tearfully told her neighbours on Tuesday, speaking from the ceremony podium.
"We lost the kindest, silliest, brightest, and most loving little boy ... he loved and made the most out of every moment."
On July 18, 2020, Noah was killed in an accident just outside his home. According to a Facebook post from Myles last October, Noah died of a head injury after slipping out of the house and getting too close to a truck.
"Less than two minutes passed from him slipping quickly out the patio door to being gone," she wrote.
The neighbourhood, according to The Telegram, had already affixed blue hearts to their homes in memory of Noah, later coming together to commemorate the boy with a bench in his favourite park.
That, said Bobbett, morphed into the town agreeing to name the entire playground after him.
"It was a big tragedy for the community," Bobbett said. "The people rise and support each other.... The generosity of people's hearts is amazing here."
"When you lose a child, I think most parents' greatest wish is that their child is remembered, that they are spoken of and live on in the minds and hearts of others," Myles said.
"Noah loved this neighborhood. He loved this park. He loved meeting our neighbours, especially as they walked by our home. He grabbed every chance he could get to ask to pet their dogs."
A stone heart at the park's entrance is inscribed with Noah's raison d'etre.
The boy "leaves a legacy of kindness and love; his life a reminder to make the most of every moment and to always show compassion and caring to others as he did," it reads.
"We like to believe that Noah would be remembered for his absolute kindness," Myles said. "And we ask that you share kindness with others, because tomorrow is never guaranteed."
Noah's older sister plays on the swings here, his mother added, and his baby brother will do the same one day.
The family wishes Noah, too, could jump and laugh with the neighbourhood kids, she said.
"We take great comfort in knowing that now," Myles said, "in such a special way, he still will be."