The U.S. Naval Academy student was a high school valedictorian, student government president and captain of the football team

By Caitlin Keating
Updated May 14, 2015 01:45 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Susan Zemser/Facebook

Twenty-year-old Justin Zemser was on his way home to New York on Tuesday night to visit one of the most important people in his life – his mother Susan.

The midshipman from the U.S. Naval Academy had a week’s leave and took the Amtrak from Washington, D.C.

But Zemser, along with seven other people, has been confirmed dead after the train crashed in Philadelphia.

“It is the most devastating news,” Susan’s close friend, Lucie Limongelli, from Rockaway Beach, Queens, tells PEOPLE. “Justin was truly the best child you could have asked for. He was the perfect child.”

He was finishing his second year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Not only was he smart,” Limongelli says. “He was so sweet.”

During his high school years at Channel View School for Research, Zemser was valedictorian, student government president and captain of the football team. He also served as vice president of the Jewish Midshipmen Club and played wide receiver on the academy’s sprint football team.

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Justin was Susan’s only child.

“There isn’t one bad thing I can say about him. He was a determined young man who went to the Naval Academy, did really well, and was truly living his dream,” says Limongelli. “As a mother, I don’t know how she will get through this. I don’t even know how she got through yesterday.”

Limongelli does know one thing – her friend will be surrounded by loved ones.

“Her sister just came in from Georgia and her brother is flying in from Israel,” she says. “She has her husband, she has me, she has a lot of love, but nothing will bring back her boy.”

His funeral will be held on Friday, according to Limongelli.