SALISBURY, Md. - Nearly two months after the tragic death of C.J. Abbott, friends and family gathered to honor his memory, and make sure his name will not be forgotten.
"C.J. made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life to save the life of another," said Connie Abbott, C.J.'s mother. "And if you knew him, you new he had plenty of life to give."
The woman who gave C.J. that life shared difficult words about her son today, on what would have been his 20th birthday.
"He was great," she said, wiping her eyes.
She spoke to an emotional crowd gathered at the Courtesy Chevrolet Saturday where C.J. worked, and now where he'll be remembered. The access road to the dealership was officially named in his honor - CJ Abbott Way.
"He had a lot of courage, and courage is what makes a difference in a hero," said Ray Nordstrom, president of Courtesy Chevrolet.
C.J. became that hero to many on September third, when he was shot multiple times during what's described as a domestic dispute. He was protecting Kristen Loetz from her ex-boyfriend Ryan Shallue, who allegedly showed up at her home with a gun.
After shooting the pair, he reportedly turned that gun on himself. And because of C.J., Loetz was only wounded that night.
"We can't all be a community of heroes, people don't have that opportunity every day," Nordstrom said. "But the ones that are, we need to recognize."
Abbott says she feels loved by all of the support she and her family has received in the time since her son's death. And while he's become a very public figure, they took time to mark his birthday privately Friday night.
They gathered with family and some of C.J.'s friends last night at his grave site, and released lanterns with notes and messages for him.
"We lit the candles and they just took off in the air," Abbott said. "It was awesome, all of the glows and stuff going on in the air. It was beautiful."
And although C.J.'s family is honored by the outpouring of respect for their son, they have a message for the community.
"Listen to your friends, your family, your spouses, your coworkers. If someone sends out a signal, no matter how small, please take it seriously," Abbott said. "You could save a family, like mine, from loosing their precious child."
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