Sabien Tafoya kneeled in front of cards, flowers and letters surrounding a Lodi streetlight Wednesday night. With tears rolling down his cheeks, the 13-year-old boy lit a candle, placed it by the memorial and said goodbye to a friend.
Tafoya stood up and brushed away the tears, giving way to another child who was mourning.
A day after a tragic crash killed six members of a Lodi family, about 250 people poured to the intersection of Ham Lane and Vine Street to remember the family with a candlelight vigil Wednesday night.
Officials identified those killed as Stephanie Miranda, 4; Jose Miranda, 5; Irving Miranda, 11; Luis Miranda, 30; and Vivian Rodriguez, 31, and her unborn child.
Around the streetlight, many people left handwritten notes saying, “Never forget the Miranda family” and “Gone but never forgotten.”
With a candle in hand, Tafoya said he’d always remember joking with Irving Miranda.
“He was smart,” Tafoya said. “He was funny. He always made all his friends laugh. He was a fun, cool kid to be around.”
After visiting the memorial, teachers, students and community members walked across the street to Lodi Middle School, where Irving Miranda was a student. Mourners formed a circle, said a short prayer and took turns sharing stories about the family and Irving’s bubbly personality.
“Irving was a great kid,” said Melissa Hackman, who worked with Irving at the school’s afterschool program. “He was very outgoing, he had a lot of friends. We’ll miss him a lot. It’s tragic.”
Many students stood together, holding candles and giving hugs, as they remembered their friend.
Max Vera, 12, knew Irving since preschool.
“We would usually hang out at lunch or play soccer,” he said. “He was pretty funny.”
Students said they arrived on campus and learned the news. As the day went on, many cried in the halls. Others were quiet, and everyone tried to comfort one another.
“We all tried to support each other,” said 12-year-old Jessica Sois, who remembers laughing with Irving in the halls.
As night fell on the large crowd, some left but many chose to stay.
Twelve-year-old Moses Vera stood with friends in front of the memorial. Surrounded by mourners, still reeling from the tragedy, a few stories about Irving were enough to make them laugh.
“He was a really funny guy,” Vera said. “He always made me laugh. He was the best friend someone could ask for.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.