On Friday morning, a car will arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport carrying a man's body.
Workers will load it on a plane bound for Thailand, a shipment for a grieving mother 9,000 miles away from Atlanta. As sad as it is, it will be a blessing, because, just as the mother of a murdered son grieves, she longs to pay respects to his remains, to have them home.
Somphot “Joey” Aromsuk’s mother is getting the chance thanks to residents of the new DeKalb County city of Tucker, who raised money for the flight. They also got Delta Airlines to cut the rate in half to transport the body of the beloved 33-year-old restaurant owner, who was killed in a robbery attempt allegedly involving one of his waitresses. Many of the benefactors are strangers or only knew the man in passing by visits to Mai Thai on Hugh Howell Road.
Mayor Frank Auman is proud of the "completely organic, heartfelt undertaking."
"It was originated and organized by people in our community who wanted a way to share the grief of this family, and to show our true colors as a community," he said Thursday.
Local businesses aided the campaign, including the Chick-fil-a across the parking lot from Mai Thai in the Tucker Station shopping center and Cococakes By Coco.
By Thursday, the $8,000 goal had been met, according to one of the organizers. Anything over is set to go to the mother for living expenses.
Her son used to help with that.
Aromsuk worked hard. He was ever-present in the restaurant. He chatted with members of local civic organizations who met there.
He was locking up Mai Thai for the night on Sept. 10 when a man approached with a gun and demanded money.
Aromsuk fought back and was shot.
Detectives charged Jarvis Stanford, 23, and Imani Burns, 20, with murder and armed robbery. Stanford was identified as the shooter, Burns the getaway driver, according to DeKalb police.
Sonja Szubski, president of the Tucker Civic Association, recalled Burns working as a waitress in the restaurant and was shocked to see the mugshot. Standford reportedly is Burns' boyfriend.
The crime was a jolt for the tightknit community.
Word spread overnight on Facebook. A makeshift memorial rose in the parking lot.
Szubski and others began pushing the fundraising efforts after hearing Aromsuk's mother needed help getting the body home.
Weeks later, Tucker residents are still uniting in their slain neighbor's name.
An estimated 150 people turned out Wednesday night for a service at Lee's Funeral Home on Lawrenceville Highway.
"This is the Tucker way," Szubski said.