For Miles Lerner, “homecoming” takes on a few definitions.
Of course, it’s the name of the annual celebration he attended at Northport High School on Oct 20. But this homecoming also marked Lerner’s return from Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was being treated for life-threatening injuries — including traumatic brain injuries.
On his way to cross-country running practice Sept. 4, Lerner was struck by a car driven by a Northport school district employee who was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, according to police and school officials.
Lerner suffered extensive head injuries, including brain trauma and brain bleed, a fractured neck and head, plus leg and elbow injuries, said his mother, Laura Lerner. He's had multiple surgeries already.
Lerner came home from the hospital on Oct. 4. Now, the 14-year-old freshman says he’s “getting better every day.”
Northport’s weekend-long homecoming celebration honored Lerner in multiple ways. First, at the pep rally on Oct. 19, Lerner stepped out onto the football field with the rest of the cross-country team, leading the pack while the announcer called out his name.
“The reaction was amazing,” Lerner said. “A lot of people were cheering.”
Northport's cross-country coach, Jason Strom, said that he and the team were "very excited" to have Lerner back for the pep rally. Strom added that he considered Lerner one of his top new runners after pre-season practices in August, and that he has shown "great affection and talent for the sport."
"It was a great moment," Strom said of the pep rally, "and in the fall after everything happened, for him to be there with his teammates again was special."
The next day, before the homecoming game, he sang the National Anthem with the rest of the Northport High School choir. He said being in front of everybody was “a little crazy, but I was mainly fine with it.”
“Being able to sing with my friends at an event like this really boosted my mood,” he added.
Laura Lerner said it was a special weekend and that her son was “welcomed back with open arms.”
“We were all very thankful that he was able to be there,” she said, adding that the outpouring of support from the community has been "fantastic." A FundRazr page set up by Lerner's sister, Ayla, raised more than $100,000 in two months.
The weekend wrapped up with a 35-6 Northport victory against Centereach.
“Of course the Tigers won," Lerner said.
Lerner's mother says he has extensive physical therapy and plastic surgery appointments ahead, plus another surgery in January. He is also still walking with a cane.
For now, Lerner said he’s happy to be home again and spending time with his dog, Maki, whom he missed while in the hospital. After being tutored from home he has also returned to school and says he will be caught up with his studies shortly. He adds that he was amazed to see how much the Northport community turned out for him at homecoming.
“All of them were truly happy to be there, and to see me recovering,” he said.